Sudan: Peace talks resume after brief interlude

NAIROBI, 28 January (IRIN) - The Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) resumed peace talks on Tuesday with the government of Sudan following a protest walk-out the day before.
UN-led Operation Lifeline Sudan spokesman, Martin Dawes, told IRIN that the talks restarted in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, although the full SPLM/A delegation was not present.

On Monday, the SPLM/A issued a statement accusing the government of capturing the towns of Ler and Dablual in Western Upper Nile (WUN) the same day, and engaging in "aerial and artillery bombardment of surrounding villages". The statement said many civilians had been killed and injured, and that "heavy displacement" of local people had occurred.

"Consequently, the SPLM/SPLA delegation to the peace talks in Karen, Nairobi, has today requested the mediators that the talks be put on hold for one day to allow the delegation to consult and wait for the outcome of the SPLM/SPLA Leadership Council Meeting," the statement said.

The government denied the allegations, stating that the town had been under its control since 1996. Humanitarian sources confirmed to IRIN that the government had had a limited presence close to the airstrip in Ler for some time.

The SPLM/A also accused the government of engaging in land and air attacks on their bases and civilian targets in WUN since 31 December. Several villages had been burnt down, and five major towns prevously under SPLA control had been retaken, the statement said. Four of these - Reang, Koak, Leal, and Kwalkuony - had been reported in letters of protest to the regional Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) Violations Committee.

The US government said on Monday that any ongoing offensives in WUN, or related build-ups of military forces at garrison towns in the south, constituted "a flagrant violation" of the cessation of hostilities agreed to in the Memorandum of Understanding signed by both sides to the conflict in Machakos, Kenya, on 15 October, 2002.

"If these reports are true, Khartoum risks losing its credibility as a serious partner for peace with both the United Sates and the international community," the US statement said.

The US-led Civilian Protection Monitoring Team (CPMT), was en route to the scene of the reported attacks to conduct an investigation, it added.


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