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US Envoy Urges Sudan's Warring Parties to End Civil War - 2003-01-17

The U.S. special envoy for Sudan is urging Sudan's warring parties to make greater efforts to end their 20-year civil war. The envoy, John Danforth, made his remark in Nairobi on Friday, one day after a visit to Khartoum for talks with Sudanese officials.

Speaking to reporters, John Danforth said that peace talks between the Sudanese government and the rebels have lost momentum over the last few months. He urged both sides to negotiate an end to the conflict, saying that neither one can win on the battlefield.

Though the government and the rebels of the Sudan People's Liberation Army have agreed to cease all hostilities until March, the fighting has continued. Mr. Danforth said it must end if there is going to be any hope of reaching a peace agreement. In his comments Friday, he placed most of the blame for the recent fighting on government forces and militias allied with the government. "Military activity has been taking place due to activities by both militia and the military forces of the government of Sudan in the Western Upper Nile," he said. "In order to renew momentum for peace, it is essential that the fighting stop."

The United States is using its economic might to persuade both sides to stop fighting. On April 21, President George Bush has to report to Congress whether there has been progress in Sudan's peace talks. If not, Congress could impose sanctions on the Sudanese government.

Peace talks between the two sides were supposed to reopen Wednesday, but the government of Sudan refused to attend. However, it has now agreed to come to talks on Wednesday, January 22.

The U.S. special envoy also suggested that relations between the two sides would improve if Sudanese President Omar el Bashir and the leader of the rebels, John Garang, held more one-on-one conversations, outside of the talks. "In addition to those formal meetings, it seems to me that there would be a great benefit, particularly if President Bashir and Doctor Garang could have periodic communications with each other and establish trust and confidence between each other and also discuss some practicalities," said Mr. Danforth.

Mr. Danforth also said he supports greater monitoring of military activities in order to protect civilians.

The SPLA rebels took up arms against the government in Khartoum in 1983 in an effort gain greater autonomy for the south.