Nuba cease-fire negotiations continuing

Jan 17, 2002 (IRIN)

Negotiations on a lasting cease-fire in the Nuba Mountains region of Southern Kordofan, south-central Sudan, have got off to a positive start in "a very favourable climate", according to the Swiss government, which is co-hosting the talks with the US government in the central Swiss town of Burgenstock.

An 11-member delegation from the government of Sudan arrived in Switzerland on Monday, 14 January, after the arrival a day earlier of a seven-member delegation from the Nuba Mountains section of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A).

After preliminary contacts on Monday, the two delegations got down to serious negotiations on Tuesday, along the lines of "a road map laid out for five days" by the Swiss, which they were sticking to, Swiss diplomatic sources told IRIN on Thursday.

The Sudanese Government delegation is led by Mutrif Siddiq Ali Nimeiri (Numayri) and the SPLM/Nuba delegation by Commandant Abd al-Aziz Adam al-Hulw (Abdulaziz Adam Elhilu), according to a Swiss government statement.

The composition of both delegations is "on a technical level" since they will have to negotiate the specific modalities of the cease-fire in the Nuba Mountains, it said.

The Americans were leading discussions on the technical and military aspects of a cease-fire, while Switzerland was leading the debate on the political aspects, AFP news agency on Monday quoted Swiss foreign ministry spokesman Livio Zanolari as saying.

However, the content of the discussions would not be disclosed to the public during the talks "in order to facilitate open and substantial exchanges between the parties," according to the Swiss government.

Swiss officials have said the talks aim to achieve a cease-fire that is "limited in time but renewable", to be placed under international supervision but not in the remit of the United Nations.

The Swiss talks would concentrate only on a regional cease-fire and not a comprehensive peace, SPLM/A spokesman Samson Kwaje said on Sunday. "These are technical committees and they will only be discussing a cease-fire in the Nuba Mountains," AP quoted him as saying. "These are not peace talks; they will only be talking about that cease-fire," he added.

US special peace envoy to Sudan, John Danforth, visited Kadugli and Karkar in the Nuba Mountains on Tuesday and heard from both the government and SPLM/A sides that the other was violating an agreed temporary cease-fire, United Press International (UPI) reported on Wednesday.

The Sudanese government's Humanitarian Affairs Commission (HAC) last week terminated a multi-agency assessment mission to government-held areas of the Nuba Mountains, in protest at an alleged SPLA attack in the Nuba Mountains.

Most of the planned assessment had been completed before the attacks, however, and HAC Commissioner Sulaf al-Din Salih said it had provided sufficient indicators as to the situation in the area, according to Sudanese news reports.

Meanwhile, a parallel assessment mission to rebel-held areas of the Nubas was aborted on Thursday last, after two days, because of security considerations amid SPLA allegations of a government offensive, humanitarian sources told IRIN.

That southern assessment is due to go ahead this weekend, while assessment teams already had enough material to factor into joint proposals for an integrated humanitarian assistance package for both government- and rebel-held areas, initially due by 21 January.