NAIROBI, 23 January (IRIN) - Peace
talks between the government of Sudan and the country's main rebel group,
the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army, restarted on Thursday in the
Kenyan capital, Nairobi, after a nine-week break.
On Wednesday the mediation team conducted separate consultations with the two delegations regarding the proposed programme and agenda for the talks, the spokesman at the Sudanese embassy in Nairobi, Muhammad Dirdiery, told IRIN.
A statement issued by the United Nations on Thursday welcomed the resumption of the peace talks (known as the Machakos process) and the "considerable progress" made to ensure access for UN agencies and aid organisations to war-affected populations.
Since 1 November, 188,500 people in previously denied locations had received two-month food rations, over one million children had been immunised against polio, "large numbers" of displaced people were being better accessed and assisted, and for the first time in three years barges carrying food and other materials were able to reach over 30 villages along the Sobat river between Malakal and Nasir, the statement said.
The Operation Lifeline Sudan (OLS) Committee on Humanitarian Assistance has formed a tripartite committee to deal with obstacles to the timely provision of assistance, the need to open cross line corridors, and training for personnel with a view to joint north/south participation.
Both the government and the SPLM have also requested the UN to expand the areas covered by interventions to Southern Blue Nile and Kassala State - two areas which did not fall under the traditional OLS mandate.
In addition, unimpeded access to OLS agencies had been guaranteed from the end of October 2002 until the end of March 2003.
"These are positive developments that demonstrate the commitment by both parties to the humanitarian imperative," commented the UN Secretary General's Envoy to Sudan, Tom Vraalsen.
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