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Preparations on Track for Darfur Peace Talks

The latest attempt at Darfur peace talks is scheduled to begin October 27th in Sirte, Libya. However, the lead-up to the talks has seen an increase in violence in Darfur and threats by some rebel leaders not to attend.

For a preview of the talks, VOA English to Africa Service Reporter Joe De Capua spoke with George Ola-Davies, who’s with the UN/AU Joint Mediation Support Team for Darfur. He’s also spokesman for Jan Eliasson, the UN Special Envoy for Darfur. From Khartoum, Ola-Davies described preparations for the talks.

“Preparations are in high gear and I think everything is in place. The team is set. We’re both working together. I mean the Joint Mediation Support Team that is made up of the United Nations and the Africa Union…we have been talking to the parties to the talks. And if Mr. Eliasson is here this week it is to continue that negotiation with the team. And I am confident that things will be working out well,” he says.

But what of the increasing violence in Darfur and the threat by some not to talk part in the talks, will that affect preparations? Ola-Davies says, “No, it will not affect the preparations per se. Everyone is aware of the fact that, yes, issues on the ground and events on the ground are not in good sted for (the) negotiation process, but I think we’re confident that they’ll be participating. And we’re hoping they will cease hostilities before the start of negotiations.”

He says that the parties to the conflict “have to work toward negotiation. They have to talk among themselves. They have to settle things through dialogue…there can be no political gain through using violence.”

There’s no firm timetable for the length of the scheduled negotiations. “There is a schedule and that is it starts on the 27th of October. But the nature of negotiations is such that you cannot keep it open ended. And by the same token you cannot set a deadline to say that it will finish this week or next week or three weeks from now. No, there are issues to be discussed and we’re going to be discussing those issues. We will take time to discuss them.”