Sudan’s government and a leading Darfur rebel faction agreed on Tuesday to meet for peace talks, signing a deal with concessions from both sides, and the Qatari mediator urged all other rebels and Chad to come to the table.

Tuesday’s agreement included measures to aid and protect refugees in Darfur and a commitment by the two sides to continue negotiatiations in Doha. The Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) also wants a prisoner swap.

JEM said it would release some of its Sudanese government detainees as a show of goodwill. The prisoner issue is a thorny one that has come close to frustrating Qatari efforts.

Sudan started negotiations last week with JEM, almost six years into a conflict that international experts say has killed 200,000 people and uprooted 2.7 million.

But other influential rebel factions are refusing to talk to Khartoum and the cooperation of neighbouring Chad, which hosts refugees fleeing Darfur, is seen as key to any lasting peace.

“I want to clarify that this agreement is open to all the other factions,” Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani told reporters in Doha, where the talks are being held.

“This process should also involve an agreement between Chad and Sudan as this will help a great deal to resolve the issue. We and the brothers in Libya are trying and hope very soon to be able to do something as this will facilitate the peace process… and make it not just a peace among Sudanese but also with its neighbours.”

The preliminary agreement comes as Sudan awaits a ruling from International Criminal Court judges within weeks on whether to issue a warrant for President Omar al-Bashir’s arrest over allegations that he was behind genocide in Darfur.



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