Sudan peace talks proceeding with difficulty

Dec 18, 2003 (Xinhua)

The ongoing Sudan peace talks are proceeding with difficulty, mediators admitted here Thursday.

Kenyan Special Envoy for Peace in the Sudan and Chief Mediator Lazarus Sumbeiywo told Xinhua that the talks between the Sudanese government and rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement Army (SPLA) may not achieve much progress as expected.

"The talks are proceeding with difficulty. The parties are discussing key issues that may even extend during the Christmas because good deals are normally made during Christmas holidays," Sumbeiywo said.

However, he said that "but anything can happen. The parties can decide to wrap up everything and sign agreement even overnight."

During this round of talks, the parties are expected to agree on the contentious issue of sharing of the revenue from the oil deposits in the south. Other issues to feature include the status of the three central states, Abyei, Blue Nile state and the Nuba Mountains.

"What I want is a comprehensive agreement to be signed. I don't prefer a framework agreement and that means I would prefer the parties to extend the negotiations until this was achieved but I can't decide that for them, it's upon them to agree on this or that," Sumbeiywo said.

The Sudanese civil war started as the SPLA took up arms fighting for self-determination in the southern part of the country in 1983.

The conflict has left some 2 million people dead, mostly through war-induced famine and disease.

The Sudanese government and the SPLA began peace talks last July in Kenya, aimed at ending the longest civil war in the continent, under the auspices of the Inter-governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), a seven-member regional group in east Africa, consisting of Kenya, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Uganda, Eritrea, Tanzania and the Sudan.

Both parties have committed to reaching a final deal by the end of year during the ongoing peace talks held in Kenyan town Naivasha, about 90 km northwest of the capital Nairobi.

Kenya is holding the current chairmanship of the IGAD ministerial sub-committee on the Sudan.