Sudanese government refuses to attend peace talks

15 January 2003
The Sudanese government pulled out of peace talks with the Sudan Peoples Liberation Army (SPLA) on 15 January, in protest at rebel claims on three disputed areas of the country. The Angasana area of the Blue Nile province, the Abyei area of west Kordofan and the Nuba mountain region of southern Kordofan had been placed top of the agenda on the grounds that no comprehensive peace settlement could be reached until this most contentious issue was resolved. The government refused to accept this. The Nairobi meeting had been scheduled to negotiate the details of the Machakos Accord, under which the Sudanese constitution would be amended to protect the rights of non-Muslims from the imposition of sharia, and the south could vote in a referendum six years after a peace treaty had been signed on whether or not to secede. A ceasefire is currently in place, due to expire in March. The SPLA has been fighting for greater autonomy for the predominantly Christian and animist south from the mainly Muslim north for 19 years, but the current US administration has intensified pressure on the two sides to reach a settlement (MEED 2:8:02). The war has claimed about 2 million lives and displaced a further 4 million.

Arab ministers meeting in Khartoum on 14 January expressed their opposition to any partition of Sudan, releasing a statement that said: 'Arab countries support the territorial unity of Sudan and oppose any attempt to carve it up.' The meeting was chaired by Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa, who met with Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir. Egypt's Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher pledged aid for its neighbour's reconstruction once a peace agreement had been reached.

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