UK welcomes progress in Sudan peace talks

Following positive developments in the Sudan peace talks , Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and the International Development Secretary, Clare Short, issued the following joint statement:

'We warmly welcome the progress made in the Sudan peace talks in Nairobi on 4 February. We urge the parties to implement the addendum to the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Cessation of Hostilities. The addendum is important. It is aimed at strengthening the MoU which was signed at Machakos on 15 October 2002 and extended on 18 November. It contains many new and welcome initiatives to build confidence between the parties and to make more unlikely the sorts of outbreaks of fighting which we have seen recently in Western Upper Nile.

'The United Kingdom welcomes the establishment of the new Verification and Monitoring Team (VMT) and will support its important work. We also urge the parties to honour the commitments in the Joint Communiqué, issued in Nairobi on the same day as the addendum. This contains important commitments to address the humanitarian plight of those affected by the fighting.

'We reaffirm that the United Kingdom stands ready with the rest of the international community to provide development and humanitarian assistance, and to work towards a sustainable solution to Sudan's debt, in order to help cement a just peace agreement that brings peace and development to all the people of Sudan.

'Our congratulations go to the Kenyan Special Envoy, Lt Gen Sumbeiywo, the other Envoys and all parties on this achievement and encourage them to push forward work on the outstanding issues at the peace talks.'

Notes for Editors

1. The UK supports the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) peace process as the best chance to bring an end to the Sudanese civil war through a negotiated settlement.

2. As an active member of the IGAD Partners Forum, we have stepped up our efforts to revitalise the IGAD initiative. We are also working closely with Kenyan Lieutenant General Sumbeiywo, the IGAD Special Envoy.

3. The first two sessions of the latest round of talks took place at Machakos, Kenya, from 17 June-20 July 2002 and 12 August-18 November 2002 (the talks were suspended between 2 September and 14 October). The UK welcomed the signing on 20 July of the Machakos Protocol which represented a significant breakthrough on major issues - state and religion and self-determination for the south. We also welcomed the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on the Cessation of Hostilities on 15 October 2002 which included the commitment to unimpeded humanitarian access. On 18 November the parties agreed to extend the MoU until 31 March 2003. They also signed a new MoU outlining progress they made in the second round on structures of government, including aspects of power sharing, the judiciary and human rights. The Foreign Secretary and International Development Secretary welcomed these developments.

4. The latest round of talks was placed under strain by fighting in the Western Upper Nile region of south Sudan. The new addendum strengthens the perceived weaknesses of the MoU by: creating a new Verification and Monitoring Team (VMT); compelling the parties to notify the identity and location of their forces, allied forces and affiliated militias; to restore locations seized in violation of the MoU since it came into effect on 17 October 2002 to the party previously in control; to suspend work on the Bentiu-Adok road until the final comprehensive peace agreement is signed; and to comply with the MoU's requirement to cease media wars and hostile propaganda. In a separate Joint Communiqué the parties agree to take all necessary steps to effect the voluntary return of the displaced civilian population of Western Upper Nile, including those displaced to Bahr el-Ghazal, and all other civilians displaced since the effective date of the MoU. The parties have appealed to the international community for help in achieving this and in addressing the humanitarian crisis in drought-stricken areas.