African Union mediators at peace talks for Sudan's Darfur region say there has been an escalation of cease-fire violations during the past three months, and that these must stop before a comprehensive peace accord can be reached.
Darfur's two main rebel groups and government negotiators met face-to-face during the fourth round of peace talks in Abuja, Nigeria.
African Union spokesman Assane Ba said mediators made clear that previous agreements reinforcing a cease-fire must be respected.
"The first item was to review the situation on the ground. We need to review the situation on the ground before going further, because we have noticed some serious violations of the cease-fire. From 13 in September, the violations went up to 52 between October, November, and early December," Mr. Ba says.
Sudan's government negotiators accused rebels of initiating recent violence, saying the army responded to protect civilians.
Majzoub al-Khalida Ahmed, who is the government's chief negotiator, explained this to VOA.
"The rebel movement has started the violations, and continues the cease-fire violations, and this is just that the government reacted late to protect," Mr. Ahmed says. "Yes, this is true, we have reacted to protect the people on the ground, and from this point of view there is no violation from the side of the government."
African Union mediators said they were not convinced by these arguments. They said even if the motive is to assist civilians, attacks are still violations of the cease-fire.
Rebels say they want a clear signal from the African Union condemning the renewed government attacks.
The head spokesman of the Sudan Liberation Army, Bahar Ibrahim, is also calling for government troops to return to their barracks.
"They are going out killing people, killing civilians, destroying villages and burning villages. We are continuing with the talks provided that the other parties abide by the agreement, and the other party also respects the agreement, that is the condition we are asking now, and it is a joint position," Mr. Ibrahim says.
African Union mediators have said they hope a comprehensive accord, which includes more autonomy for the Darfur region, can be reached by December 22.
The 22-month conflict pitting black-African rebel groups against the Arab-led army and pro-government militias has killed tens-of-thousands of people and made hundreds of thousands homeless.