Officials: Sudan, main rebel group fail to reach peace deal

CAIRO (AP) — Sudan’s transitional government and the country’s main rebel group failed to reach a peace deal to end a decades-long conflict in the East African country, officials said Tuesday.

The latest round of talks between the Sudanese government and the Sudan Popular Liberation Movement – North, led by Abdel-Aziz al-Hilu, began last month in South Sudan’s capital, Juba.

Sudan’s transitional government has been engaging in peace talks with rebel groups over the past two years. It’s looking to stabilize the country and help its fragile path to democracy survive following the military’s overthrow of longtime autocrat Omar al-Bashir in April 2019. It reached a peace deal with another rebel alliance in October.

Sudan and the PLM-N agreed Tuesday to end negotiations and conduct further consultations over their disputed points, said Tut Galuak, a security adviser to South Sudan’s president who led mediation efforts.

He said the two sides have reached “significant understandings of the disputed issues,” and that “only four out of 19 points” remain unsolved. He did not elaborate.

Galuak’s comments came in a statement released by Sudan’s ruling sovereign council.

Also in the statement, Gen. Shams Eddin Kabashi, a member of the sovereign council and the government’s chief negotiator, said the sides would return to the negotiating table “once conditions are more favorable.”

The rebel group’s chief negotiator, Ammar Amount, said they have agreed on between 75% to 80% of the deal and the remaining issues need further consultations with their leaders.

Neither side gave a time frame for a return to the talks.

Al-Hilu’s movement is Sudan’s single largest rebel group and is active in the Blue Nile and South Kordofan provinces, where it controls significant chunks of territory.

The most recent round of talks came less than two months after the government and the al-Hilu movement signed a declaration of principles detailing a roadmap for the talks.

Al-Hilu’s group participated in negotiations leading up to that agreement but did not sign the final deal. It called for a secular state with no role for religion in lawmaking, the disbanding of all of al-Bashir’s militias and the re-vamping of the country’s military. Al-Hilu’s group said if its demands aren’t met, it will call for self-determination in areas it controls.

Another major rebel group, the Sudan Liberation Movement-Army, led by Abdel-Wahid Nour, rejects the transitional government and has not taken part in talks.

Sudanese rebels for years fought al-Bashir’s loyalists in Darfur but also in the southern provinces of Blue Nile and South Kordofan. The fighting has often fallen along religious and ethnic lines.

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