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Sudan, Chad Hold Talks to Resolve Testy Diplomatic Relations

Sudan and neighboring Chad are expected to hold peace talks Friday to resolve recent diplomatic spats and create a lasting peace agreement. The talks, organized by other Islamic countries, will take place in Qatar's capital, Doha. They are aimed at mending testy relations between Khartoum and Ndjamena. The two countries have often traded accusations of supporting insurgent groups and rebel attacks inside each other's territories. Last May, Khartoum accused Chadian President Idriss Deby of involvement in an attack on the Sudanese capital by Darfur rebels.

Analyst Rashid Abdi of the International Crisis Group told VOA that implementation of the outcome of Friday's talks will be their most daunting challenge.

"The first thing I will say definitely that there is a galvanization and a very serious attempt by the Arab mediators to bring these two countries on the negotiating table so that they can resolve their longstanding differences. And I think that now there is a lot of seriousness on the part of the Arab mediators to broker a solution is perhaps indicative of the gravity of the situation," Abdi said.

He said there are reasons to believe that Friday's talks would be demanding.

"Judging by past accords or agreements between Sudan and Chad, one would be forgiven for being skeptical, of course. But I think a lot of things have happened, and I think time has come for these two countries to resolve their differences and to work amicably together. And that would unlock obviously or bring a resolution to the Darfur problem because at the center of the Darfur problem is of course these tensions between the two countries," he said.

Abdi said finding an instantaneous panacea for the testy diplomatic relations between Khartoum and Ndjamena would be challenging.

"It will be difficult for these two countries to reach an immediate solution. But the fact that they have began talking and the Arab mediators are now more serious than perhaps before I think is definitely a very positive and a welcome move," Abdi said.

He said it would be hard to find a solution to the problems between Khartoum and Ndjamena after both countries continue trading accusations of supporting rebel groups in their territories.

"I think that is the key question. If each country had a suspicion and continues to back the rebels groups of the other, then I think this problem would never be resolved. But the key is to keep the line of communication open to de-escalate the tension and possibly arrive at a solution sometime in the future. I don't think the Qatar talks would resolve all the problems between these two countries," he said.

Abdi said despite the frosty relations, there is hope in finding a solution.

"I think the fact that there is now an energetic push to try to resolve this problem and to keep the line of communication open, I think, is significant. And these efforts must be encouraged, and I think lauded as well," Abdi said.

He said past talks between the two countries have not had much success putting their outcomes into practice.

"I think the implementation has always been the problem. Whenever these two leaders from both countries and their mediators meet at these diplomatic forums, the talk is always positive. And after the handshake and after the photo opportunities, these leaders go back to their home countries and again the problem begins afresh," he said.

Abdi said it was important for both countries to resolve the impasse which would go a long way in helping to alleviate the suffering of their peoples.

"I think people are tired, Darfuris are tired, and everyone in the region is tired. I think time has come for the leaders of this region to once and for all finish this problem because there is a serious humanitarian problem in Darfur which needs resolution. And it is not only the border tension or the problem of insurgency in both countries which is the core. The core I think is Darfur, and once this tension between these countries is resolved, then I think the harder task would be the Darfur crisis," Abdi said.

Libya, which currently holds the chairmanship of the Africa Union, and host Qatar, are the principal countries organizing Friday's Doha talks, which some political observers hope can bring peace to the Darfur region.