Peace talks for southern Sudan break for Christmas

Dec. 23 (dpa)

The Sudanese government and the southern Sudanese rebels, currently involved in negotiations hoped to end a 21-year-war in Africas largest nation, will break for Christmas, but say remain committed to reaching a deal by the end of the year.

"We will break for now, but we will resume talks on Monday the 27th. We are still committed to reaching a final peace deal before the end of the year", SPLA rebel spokesman Samson Kwaje told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa by telephone from the negotiations venue in the Kenyan town of Naivasha.

The two sides, embroiled in a war that has claimed an estimated 2 million lives and displaced 4 million people, have held peace talks in neighbouring Kenya for the past two years.

In November this year, the U.N. Security Council held a special session in Nairobi, aimed at kickstarting peace talks for southern Sudan. The talks had stalled following a landmark agreement signed in May, and have been overshadowed by the parallell peace negotiations for the more publicized conflict in the western region of Darfur.

At the special session, the Sudanese government and the SPLA rebels signed a declaration committing themselves to reaching a comprehensive peace agreement by the end of the year.

The leader of the SPLA, John Garang, who is a Christian like many other southern Sudanese, has said earlier he wanted to finish by December 23, so that he could go home and celebrate Christmas.

Kwaje told dpa that progress had been made, but would not elaborate.

Other reports have said the main issues still to be agreed on include details of a permanent ceasefire and power-sharing during an interim period.