Sudan accepts invitation to new round of talks with rebels
KHARTOUM - The Sudanese government said Wednesday it had accepted an invitation from the African Union to attend peace talks with the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North in Addis Ababa next month.
The SPLM-N has been battling Khartoum's forces in the southern Blue Nile and South Kordofan states since 2011, and did not immediately say whether they would attend.
"The Sudanese government received an invitation to a new round of negotiations about the two areas with the SPLM-N on November 2 in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, and the invitation was to both sides," said Hussein Kershoum, a member of the government's delegation for negotiations.
Kershoum said the government was prepared to attend.
A round of talks last year ended without result.
The latest invitation comes as Khartoum redoubles its efforts to persuade the SPLM-N and rebels from the western Darfur region to join a national dialogue, aimed at resolving the insurgencies on the country's peripheries and mending an ailing economy.
Three main Darfur rebel groups and the SPLM-N, which form part of the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF), have declined to attend and called for a meeting outside the country to set conditions for dialogue.
In a bid to encourage them to attend, President Omar al-Bashir -- wanted by the International Criminal Court over war crimes charges related to the conflict in Darfur -- declared a two-month ceasefire in Darfur, Blue Nile and South Kordofan last month.
The SPLM-N has already said Khartoum has carried out air strikes since then.
Fighting in Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile usually halts during the rainy season between June and November.
But spokesmen from the Justice and Equality Movement and the Sudan Liberation Army-Minnawi -- two Darfur-based members of the SRF -- said Wednesday the alliance had declared a six-month ceasefire, but the SPLM-N has not confirmed this.
"At the time of writing we have not received confirmation of that," SPLM-N spokesman Arnu Lodi said Tuesday.
Mostly black rebels in Darfur mounted an insurgency against Bashir's Arab-dominated government in 2003, complaining that their region had been marginalised.
In response, Bashir unleashed a brutal counter-insurgency using troops and allied militia.
The United Nations says 2.5 million people have fled the fighting and some 300,000 have been killed, although Khartoum puts the death toll at 10,000.
Former insurgents in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states rebelled in 2011, also complaining of marginalisation.