Darfur talks 'progressing well'

ABU DHABI — Dr Lam Akol, Sudanese Foreign Minister, said here yesterday that he expected a breakthrough to end the fighting in Darfur before the April 30 deadline set by the African Union's Security and Peace Council and the UN Security Council.

By Muawia E. Ibrahim

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Published: Thu 13 Apr 2006, 11:00 AM

Last updated: Sat 4 Apr 2015, 5:50 PM

"Though I cannot give an exact date for a final deal to end the Darfur crisis, I can tell you that negotiations between the government and the Darfur groups are progressing very well. We are on the right track and will hopefully meet the April 30 deadline," Dr Akol, currently on a short visit to the UAE told reporters at the Emirates Palace last evening.

Answering a Khaleej Times question on whether there were certain problems that hinder negotiations in Abuja, Nigeria, the minister said that the most difficult among the three complications i.e. power-sharing, wealth-sharing, and security arrangements is the demand by the rebel groups for individual compensation for all those affected by the war.

"This demand is impossible. They are asking for individual compensation in millions for around 600,000 families but I think this is just a manoeuvre on their part to gain time as they expect international intervention," Dr Akol added.

The UN Security Council has told the Sudanese government and the rebels to make peace in Darfur by April 30 and instructed UN military experts to plan for a peacekeeping force there. The Security Council call comes in support of the African Union's April 30 deadline for reaching an agreement in the Abuja talks.

The Abuja negotiations have missed several deadlines already, but this time African heads of state and other influential African institutions are intervening, which gives some hope for a breakthrough, according to Dr Akol.

The Security Council reaffirmed its decision "to hold accountable those impeding the peace process and committing human rights violations.

On the demand for UN peacekeepers in Darfur, the Sudanese minister said his government rejected the proposal entirely.

"Such a force will not come for peacekeeping. They will come for imposing peace and we all know that an imposed peace deal will never survive for long," he added.

"We know that if they want to enter Sudan without Khartoum's permission they can do it but we totally disagree with the proposal of international forces and would prefer AU forces instead," he reiterated.

To another question, Dr Akol said there was nothing new in the latest Security Council decision demanding Sudan to meet the deadline and hand over officials accused of being involved in war crimes in Darfur.

"Our position on this issue is clear. Our courts are already investigating the cases and there is coordination between these courts and the International Criminal Court," he claimed.

Sudan has already rejected the decision of the ICC to launch an inquiry into war crimes allegedly committed in Darfur.

The minister said one of the major problems facing the Sudanese government now was that the promised $4.5 billion for development in Southern Sudan, after a peace agreement, has been frozen because the donors have linked the aid to a final deal in Darfur.

He pointed out that only 30 per cent of this amount had already reached Khartoum government — which was promised the amount for return of refugees, the displaced, and other development projects in the post-war period.

During his visit, the first since his appointment in September last year as foreign minister, Dr Akol handed over a letter from Sudanese President Omar Al Bashir to the President, His Highness Shaikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, updating him on the latest political developments in Sudan.

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