UN tells Sudan's government and southern rebels failure not option in peace talks

8 December 2004

The top United Nations envoy for Sudan has told the Government and rebel leaders that "failure is not an option" in their efforts to formalize by the end of the year the two decades of civil war that have torn apart the southern region of Africa's largest country.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan's Special Representative for Sudan, Jan Pronk, met separately with Vice President Ali Osman Taha and Chairman John Garang of the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) in Naivasha, Kenya, and welcomed the good spirit shown by the two leaders.

Mr. Pronk, who returned last night to UN Headquarters in New York, emphasized to both leaders that every effort should be exerted to fulfil the commitment they made to an extraordinary session of the UN Security Council last month in Nairobi, Kenya.

At the session the Government of Sudan and the SPLM signed a Memorandum of Understanding pledging to conclude successfully by 31 December the peace talks that have been going on in Naivasha since mid-2003.

The long-running war in southern Sudan is separate from the conflict in the western Darfur region, where nearly 1.7 million people have been displaced and Janjaweed militias stand accused of killing and raping thousands of villagers in what the UN has called the world's worst current humanitarian crisis. The Darfur fighting began last year when rebels took up arms to demand a greater share of the economic resources in an area the size of France.