United Nations and African Union officials are to travel to Darfur this week to try to convince key rebel leaders to join peace talks aimed at resolving the crisis in the Sudanese region, the AU said on Monday.
Noureddine Mezni, spokesperson for the AU, said the officials would travel to Darfur ”in the next few days”.
UN and AU special envoys, meanwhile, held closed-door meetings with the Sudanese government delegation to the talks, which opened in the absence of the main rebel groups on Saturday.
Mezni said the mediators were scheduled later on Monday to meet representatives of the rebel groups present at the talks, being held in the Liyban resort of Sirte, 600km east of the capital, Tripoli.
Monday’s talks were focused on key issues of ”form and substance”, which will shape the peace process.
”These consultations will continue over several days” and will be attended by other representatives of the international community as well as neighbouring countries, Mezni added.
He said representatives of civil society in Darfur would also be involved.
Eight rebel factions, including the most important, are staying away from the Libya talks, casting a pall over the bid to end slaughter that is estimated to have killed 200 000 in four years and displaced two million.
Khartoum puts the death toll much lower.
The UN and AU vowed on Sunday to press ahead with the peace process launched in Libya despite calls from the rebels for the bid to be postponed.
”I refuse to state that the peace process is interrupted,” UN Darfur envoy Jan Eliasson said at the end of Sunday’s session. ”The train has left the station for the road to peace.”
UN diplomats have spoken of a three-phase peace process, the first being advance consultation. This would be followed by internal consensus building and then by actual peace negotiations.
After the Khartoum government declared a unilateral ceasefire at the start of the meeting, the chief negotiators, the UN’s Taye Zerihoun and the AU’s Sam Ibok, still hope to bring the boycotting rebel factions to the table.
Only six minor rebel groups have turned up in Sirte and they have sent ”second rank” representatives with little power, a UN diplomat acknowledged.
In a joint statement, the six factions called on the mediators to set a timeframe for further negotiations with the rebel groups that are boycotting the peace talks to try to persuade them to take part.
Addressing Saturday’s opening, host Libyan leader Moammar Gadaffi said the absent Sudan Liberation Movement/Army and the Justice and Equality Movement were ”fundamental” to peace in Darfur.
”I see that this conference must stop here,” he said, before charging that the UN and AU were not competent bodies to resolve ”a tribal conflict”. — AFP