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Sudan says SPLM-N differences will delay peace talks

SPLM-N leader Malik Agar and secretary general Yasir Arman in a meeting with the SPLM-N leadership in Nyba Mountains on 25 Marsh 2017 (ST photo)

April 1, 2017 (KHARTOUM) - The government negotiating team on the conflict in the Two Areas Saturday said the differences within the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/North (SPLM-N) will delay the next round of talks.

Last month, SPLM-N deputy chairman Abel Aziz al-Hilu resigned from his position saying the secretary-general Yasir Arman disregarded his demand to include the self-determination in the agenda of peace negotiations.

On 25 March, the Nuba Mountains Liberation Council, an SPLM-N political body in the South Kordofan announced its support of al-Hilu’s demand for self-determination and relieved Arman from his position as secretary-general and chief negotiator.

In an attempt to contain the growing differences, SPLM-N chairman Malik Agar and Arman arrived in the rebel controlled areas in South Kordofan on Sunday 26 March and engaged in five-day meetings with the political and military leadership.

On Friday, SPLM-N leadership issued a short statement reiterating the unity of rebel group and commitment to its political line and strategy towards peace process in Sudan but didn’t elaborate on the details of the moves reached to contain the rift.

Member of the government negotiating team on the conflict in the Two Areas Hussein Karshoom told Sudan Tribune that the fate of the coming round of talks is unclear, pointing the SPLM-N is speaking about changing its negotiating team and rearranging the negotiation issues.

“I believe the differences within the Movement won’t impede the negotiations but will delay the next round of talks,” he said.

He expected the SPLM-N to reconcile its situation and return to the negotiating table, but didn’t rule out that the Movement could split and form two negotiating teams, saying “all possibilities exist”.

Karshoom expressed his government readiness to engage in talks with each delegation separately if the Movement split into two factions.

“When we look at the past experiences, we see that all possibilities exist. The Movement could split and form two delegations, one representing the Blue Nile and the other representing South Kordofan as it happened in 2003,” he said.

He pointed that Al-Hilu in 2003 led a separate delegation on South Kordofan track and signed a ceasefire agreement with the government; ruling out the African Union chief mediator Thabo Mbeki will announce a new date to resume the talks during his visit to Khartoum on Thursday.

South Kordofan and the neighbouring Blue Nile state, also known as the Two Areas have been the scene of violent conflict between the SPLM-N and Sudanese army since 2011.

Talks between the two sides for a cessation of hostilities and humanitarian access are stalled since last August.

(ST)