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UN Spokesman Denies Darfur Peace Talks Postponed

A spokesman for the UN Special Envoy for Darfur denies reports that the Darfur peace talks have been postponed until next month. Those reports say the talks would be delayed because some rebel groups have so far refused to attend.

George Ole-Davies is in the coastal town of Sirte, Libya. He spoke to VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about the status of the negotiations.

“The talks are continuing. We’ve got a team here in Sirte…and the government has got its delegation. You’ve got the (rebel) movements also here. And the international community is also with us, together with the regional partners. So the talks are continuing. We’re into different phases of the negotiations right now, basically bilateral consultations with the various present bodies that are here,” he says.

However, some published reports say the talks have been postponed until December. Ola-Davies says, “Not only don’t I know anything about those reports, I can only confirm that you’re talking to me here in Sirte where the talks are being held and that the talks are progressing seamlessly. And that a group of senior mediation officials will be leaving here on Saturday (11/3) to go over to Sudan in Juba and Darfur to be able to convince, to listen, first and foremost, to those that are not here to find out why they’re not here. And to see how they could come on board. We have some movements that are here. The civil society was present at the opening ceremony. That was how it was planned…and as I said we’re continuing seamlessly.”

Asked about the rebel groups not I attendance, he says, “There is every hope that those who are back (in Sudan) will come. Apparently… not all of them have said that they will not come. They have requested for time to prepare furthermore. This time has been given to them…there are some others that have requested a couple of things that we are going to listen to, the mediation team is going to listen to. And we’ll see how we can put things together. Things are falling into place.”

He says that the government announced a unilateral ceasefire at the start of the talks, but says rebels are also being urged to declare their own ceasefire. “Because you cannot talk and fight at the same time,” he says.