February 20, 2010 / 9:30 AM / 9 years ago

Darfur rebels say ready for temporary ceasefire

KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Darfur’s rebel Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) said Saturday it was ready to sign a temporary ceasefire with Sudan’s government, saying a “framework agreement” on the terms of future peace talks could be imminent.

JEM, thought to control Darfur’s most powerful insurgent force, said the deal would be a step forward but would not mark the end of its struggle with Khartoum.

“This is not the end of anything. This is just the start,” spokesman Ahmed Hussein Adam told Reuters from Chad’s capital N’Djamena, where he said the insurgents had held talks with a Sudanese government delegation for the last three days.

“This would just be a primary agreement, a set of guiding principles — one short document to be used as a reference for all the detailed issues we will discuss later,” he said.

“We are ready to sign a temporary ceasefire when the terms of the framework agreement are agreed.”

Khartoum has agreed to a series of ceasefires during the seven-year conflict, but some have fallen apart days after their signing and distrust between the warring parties remains deep.

Talks between JEM and Khartoum, hosted in Qatar, have been stalled for months.

But there has been a flurry of activity between the two sides in recent days, some analysts say, against a background of thawing relations between Sudan and neighboring Chad.

Sudan and Chad, both preparing for elections, agreed earlier this month to end their long-running proxy war, fought by arming rebels on each other’s territory. Chadian President Idriss Deby shares ethnic links with JEM’s leadership and many have accused him of backing JEM.

No one in the government was immediately available for comment. President Omar Hassan al-Bashir told supporters on Friday they should expect good news from Darfur soon and state media said a deal with JEM could be imminent.

JEM and Darfur’s rebel Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) took up arms against the government in 2003, accusing Khartoum of leaving their western region marginalized and underdeveloped.

SLA founder Abdel Wahed Mohamed el-Nur, with strong support among the region’s displaced population, is refusing to talk to Khartoum, demanding an end to violence before negotiations.

JEM officials said the framework agreement would include a list of areas for negotiation, including compensation for Darfuris, humanitarian access and the broad topics of “power sharing” and “wealth sharing.”

“Once Khartoum signs the framework agreement, it would be committed to paying compensation ... the amount and the mechanisms would be up for discussion,” senior JEM official Al- Tahir al-Feki told Reuters, speaking by phone from Germany.

Khartoum has agreed to the principle of compensation and giving Darfuris better representation and a greater share of resources in previous failed agreements.

“The difference this time is the political will and determination. We want to see the end of our people’s suffering,” said JEM spokesman Ahmed Hussein Adam.

“We will not play their (Khartoum’s) game if they are only interested in buying time, in tactics, in just signing papers to make it easier for them in the elections ... The vicious circle can begin again and we can resume our armed struggle.”

Adam said it was unclear whether JEM and Khartoum would be able to sign a framework agreement in Chad over the next couple of days, or later in Doha. “I would say something is imminent.”

Editing by Tim Pearce

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