DOHA (AFP) – Direct peace talks between the Sudanese government and Darfur rebel groups did not resume on Sunday as expected, with the two sides holding separate consultations with mediators instead.
“Sunday will be devoted to consultations” with Qatari mediators and the chief negotiator for the United Nations and African Union, Djibril Bassole, said Ahmed Hussein Adam, spokesman for the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), the main rebel group in Darfur.
“There will be consultations between mediators and the Sudanese government on the one hand, and mediators and the Justice and Equality Movement on the other, in which other (rebel) groups could be involved,” he said.
A source in the Sudanese government delegation confirmed to AFP that there would be “no direct negotiations on Sunday with rebel groups but only consultations with the mediators.”
A source in the UN-AU mediation meanwhile told AFP: “There is no real cancellation. We are working with the government and with the armed movements to get them working together towards an effective dialogue.”
“This is still ongoing…. and we will hope to find an appropriate format by which they can make progress,” the source said.
The Sudanese delegation, which is headed by Ghazi Salaheddin, the government’s pointman on Darfur, met with Bassole on Saturday.
Darfur rebels had two rounds of talks with Sudanese government officials in Qatar in February and May of 2009.
In February, the JEM signed an agreement with the Khartoum government on confidence-building measures intended to pave the way for further talks. But other factions have refused to join the mooted talks in Doha and the JEM says there is no point in taking part if there is no unity among the rebels.
Rebels and government officials were also due to meet in November but the talks failed to take place.
Bassole said earlier this month that talks to settle the festering conflict in the Darfur region would resume in Doha before the end of the month, with January 24 set as a date for direct talks.
The United Nations says up to 300,000 people have died and 2.7 million fled their homes since the ethnic minority rebels first rose up against the Arab-dominated government in Khartoum in February 2003.
Sudan’s government says 10,000 people have been killed.