The Terror Journal

A Journal on Terrorism and Genocide

Prisoners key in Darfur peace talks

DarfurDarfur rebels said on Sunday that Qatari-mediated talks with the Sudanese government were edging towards an agreement that could lead to peace talks but key differences remained over the release of prisoners of war.

Ahmed Hussein Adam, a spokesman for the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), one of the main rebel factions, said the talks were aiming for a declaration of intent paving the way for negotiations on a framework peace agreement.

The talks, which began on Tuesday, are the first since 2007 between the government and the JEM, which launched a rebellion in Darfur nearly six years ago and was involved in a recent upsurge of fighting.

Other influential rebel factions are refusing to talk to Khartoum and say the peace drive will fail because they are not all included. Only the JEM is in Doha.

The talks are being held at the same time as the International Criminal Court in The Hague deliberates on whether to issue an arrest warrant for the Sudanese president on charges of masterminding genocide in the region.

Asked if he believed the Doha-mediated talks would bear fruit, Adam told Reuters by telephone: “I think so, but the red line for us is concerning the detainees.”

The JEM wants the government to agree to a prisoner swap and an end to the bombardment of what it says are civilian areas. It also wants Khartoum to pledge not to impede humanitarian aid and to refrain from harassing displaced people, Adam said.

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It was not immediately possible to contact government negotiators.

International experts say 200,000 people have died and 2.7 million been driven from their homes since mostly non-Arab rebels in Darfur took up arms against Khartoum in 2003, accusing it of neglecting the region’s development.

Khartoum says the Western media have exaggerated the conflict and puts the death count at 10,000.

The government launched its own Darfur peace initiative in November, offering, among other measures, a ceasefire, compensation for Darfuris and peace talks with all rebel groups.

Many observers said the move was a bid to deflect pressure from the chief prosecutor of the ICC, who has asked judges to issue an arrest warrant for President Omar Hassan al-Bashir.

Both the JEM and the armed forces reported clashes this week near al-Malan, north of the south Darfur capital Nyala.

JEM commanders said they repelled a major government attack on Thursday, killing more than 100 soldiers, seizing two tanks and taking hundreds of prisoners including senior officers.

Sudan army spokesman Brigadier Uthman al-Agbash told state media over the weekend the government had defeated a JEM assault and lost only four soldiers. He dismissed the JEM account as a “media campaign”.

Source: Reuters

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