UN and AU envoys continue Darfur peace negotiations and consultations

6 November 2007United Nations and African Union envoys today held workshops on wealth-sharing issues with the Sudanese Government and some of Darfur’s rebel groups as they continue their efforts to try to find a way to end the deadly conflict in the war-torn region of western Sudan. The officials conducted the negotiations in Sirte, Libya, site of the first phase of the three-part UN-AU peace process aimed at quelling the violence and suffering that has engulfed Darfur since 2003. UN spokesperson Marie Okabe told reporters that consultations are also taking place in Juba, southern Sudan, with some of the splintering rebel movements that did not attend last week’s talks in Sirte. Throughout this month UN and AU officials are holding a series of planned consultations and workshops with and among the rebel groups, with the hope that they will work out a unified position on the major issues in dispute. The third phase, in which full talks are supposed to take place in Sirte, is slated to begin in early December. The conflict – in which 200,000 people have been killed and at least 2.2 million others made homeless – has been complicated by the splintering of the rebel groups from about three major movements into as many as 16 or more separate factions. Ahmad Fawzi, a spokesperson for the UN-AU mediation team, said yesterday that “the door remains open for those who wish to join the process,” but warned that now was the time for the rebels to “get their act together” and unify behind a common delegation and position. Speaking to reporters after a meeting with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at UN Headquarters, Salva Kiir, Sudan’s First Vice-President and the President of Southern Sudan, said he was working to try to unify the rebels based in Juba. Mr. Kiir stressed that the rebels should agree on the need for unity and a common agenda before determining issues and questions of leadership. Mr. Ban told reporters that it was also vital to “ensure a smooth and speedy implementation” of the January 2005 comprehensive peace agreement that ended the separate north-south civil war in Sudan.