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Darfur peace talks still on track - mediator

Peace talks between the Sudanese government and two rebel movements in the western province of Darfur are still on track, despite delays in sending a ceasefire verification team into the troubled area, a spokesman for the Chadian mediation team said on Friday.

Talks on a political solution to the 15-month-old conflict began in the Chadian capital N'djamena on Tuesday after the two sides agreed to a 45-day truce earlier in the month. The ceasefire is designed to enable humanitarian aid to reach nearly one million people who have been uprooted from their homes by the fighting.

Ahmad Allami, the official spokesman of the Chadian government's mediation team, told IRIN by telephone from N’djamena that "negotiations were still going on,” and were likely to continue for "one or two months."

He rejected international news reports that the peace talks were on the verge of collapse following rebel accusations that government forces have repeatedly violated a ceasefire that came into effect on 11 April.

"The talks are not threatened," the Chadian diplomat said. "On both sides, there are accusations, the government accuses the rebels, the rebels accuse the governments.”

He pointed out that an African Union ceasefire verification commission had not yet been set up because of financial and procedural difficulties, so these accusations could not be verified.

Allami said he himself travelled to the headquarters of the African Union in Addis Ababa earlier in the week to try and speed up progress towards getting ceasefire monitors on the ground.

The diplomat said Chad recognized that accusations of ceasefire violations were “normal” in all peace negotiations.

But he said that Chad's mediation team would continue to host the talks in N'djamena so long as it had a mandate to do so from the belligerents and the international community. Chad hosts more than 110,000 refugees from the conflict in Darfur who have flooded across its eastern border.

The African Union is the only independent organisation allowed to participate in the current peace talks as an observer. It has also been charged with setting and financing the ceasefire verification commission.

The United Nations, human rights movements and relief agencies have expressed concern at widespread atrocities committed against civilians in Darfur, where two rebel movements, the Sudan Liberation Army and the Justice and Equality Movement, are battling against Sudanese government forces and their Arab militia allies.

On Friday, the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva overwhelmingly adopted a resolution expressing concern about the scale of reported abuses in Darfur.

The United States was the only country to vote against the text of the resolution because it failed to condemn what Washington regards as "ethnic cleansing" by pro-government forces in Darfur.

UN officials, human rights activists and relief agencies have accused government forces and their Arab militia allies of systematically clearing villages inhabited by people of black ethnic groups. Khartoum has denied the charges.

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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