HC Deb 10 December 2003 vol 415 cc514-5W
Mr. Drew

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the peace talks in the Sudan, with specific reference to the situation in Darfur. [142308]

Mr. Mullin

We are optimistic about the prospects for peace between the Government of Sudan and the Sudanese People's Liberation Movement. Much progress has been made since the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) sponsored talks re-started in June 2002. Agreement has been reached on the key issues of self-determination for the south and the application of Sharia law. A Memorandum of Understanding on a cessation of hostilities for the duration of the peace talks was signed in October 2002, and a monitoring mechanism established. Most recently, on 25 September 2003, a framework agreement on security arrangements during the interim period was reached.

The talks, adjourned for Ramadan, re-started in Naivasha on 1 December. Various issues still need to be resolved, notably power and wealth sharing arrangements and the three conflict areas (of Southern Blue Nile, the Nuba Mountains and Abyei). But we are hopeful that the parties will reach agreement this year or early next. We continue to offer the parties and mediators our full support and advice and remain actively involved in helping them reach a comprehensive peace agreement.

We remain concerned about the situation in Darfur. I discussed the matter with the Sudanese Ambassador on 2 December. We are pressing the Government of Sudan to ensure unrestricted humanitarian access to Darfur. This would allow a fuller assessment of the situation and enable relief agencies to provide support to the most vulnerable. And we are urging all parties to engage constructively in the Abeche peace talks. All sides should know from bitter experience that a military solution is not in prospect, and that peace and reconciliation offer the only real chance of a brighter future.

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