Host South Sudan to include Darfur rebels in Sudan peace talks

JUBA (Reuters) - South Sudan will host peace talks in Juba next week between the government of Sudan in Khartoum and all Sudanese opposition armed groups, and will also include rebels from Darfur, a presidential adviser said on Monday.

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Sudan, which had previously accused its southern neighbor of stoking unrest in parts of its territory, agreed to mediation by South Sudan on Sunday, although only in its conflicts with rebels in the border regions of South Kordofan and Blue Nile.

Independence for South Sudan in 2011 meant that many previously restive areas escaped Khartoum’s rule, except for South Kordofan and Blue Nile, where rebels kept up their fight.

Tut Kew Gatluak, an adviser to President Salva Kiir, said the talks would now also involve rebels in Darfur, a region of Sudan along the border with South Sudan where rebels have been clashing with President Omar Hassan al-Bashir’s forces since 2003, although fighting has subsided in all the rebel regions in recent years.

“President (Salva) Kiir has invited all the armed opposition groups present in Sudan, whether in Darfur or in the two states of Blue Nile and South Kordofan, to participate in the talks in Juba,” he told a news conference.

The Khartoum government has unilaterally maintained a ceasefire with rebels in Darfur, Blue Nile and South Kordofan since 2015, and extended it in July.

Sudan and South Sudan have long traded accusations of supporting rebels in each other’s territory, during wars in which hundreds of thousands of people have died.

Kiir’s government and South Sudan’s main rebel group concluded a peace deal in September in Khartoum, with Bashir’s assistance, that was aimed at ending a civil war that had been raging since 2013.

Gatluak said Kiir would play a reciprocal role in the negotiations between Bashir’s government and the Sudanese rebels, starting in Juba next week.

Khartoum has said further peace talks under the aegis of the African Union are expected to take place in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, in mid-December.

Reporting by Denis Dumo; Writing by Hereward Holland; Editing by Kevin Liffey