Khartoum rejects talks on central Sudan before deal with rebels on south

Jan 8 (AFP)

The Khartoum government said Wednesday it would not take part in talks on central Sudan with the country's southern rebels before progress is made on the status of the south itself.

President Omar al-Beshir's peace advisory panel said Khartoum had received from Kenyan mediator Lazaro Sumbeiywo a proposal to hold a January 15 meeting on the central region with the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA).

The panel, in a statement, said it informed Sumbeiywo the government "believes that discussion of any other negotiating track should be postponed until progress is achieved on the main track."

The central region includes the Nuba Mountains, the Blue Nile and Abyei, parts of which are under the control of the SPLA.

The SPLA has said it received in December from Nuba Mountains representatives a mandate to negotiate on their behalf with Khartoum.

A third round of talks between the Sudanese government and the SPLA is set for later this month in Kenya, but no date has been formally announced.

The SPLA has said the Nuba representatives want their region to have a six-year period of self-rule under SPLA administration, after which it "would have the right to self-determination".

Khartoum and the SPLA agreed during a first round of talks, held in July in Kenya, on a similar deal for the mainly Christian and animist southern Sudan.

Their preliminary accord provides for a referendum to be held at the end of the six-year period of self-rule in southern Sudan to determine whether the region wants to secede or stay united with the Muslim north.

The Nuba Mountains enclave is located away from the main war zone in the south, and a landmark ceasefire deal was reached in the region, home to some half a million people, a year ago.

The SPLA says it controls most of the Nuba region.

Two decades of civil war in Sudan have cost an estimated 1.5 million lives and displaced around four million people.