- Foreign Minister Ibrahim Gandour says ready to resume talks on Blue Nile, South Kordofan conflicts
By Mohammed Taha Tewekel
ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia - Sudan’s foreign minister said Saturday that his country welcomes the renewal of stalled peace talks.
“We want to restart the peace talks facilitated by the African Union,” Ibrahim Gandour told Anadolu Agency.
Talks between the Sudanese government and Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) stalled in December. Since then African Union mediators led by former South African President Thabo Mbeki have been working to get the negotiations in Addis Ababa back on track.
They are due to restart on Nov. 2 but Gandour said Sudan had not been officially informed.
“I will be going to South Africa to discuss with Thabo Mbeki ways to continue the peace talks,” he added.
The SPLM-N has been fighting government troops in the southern Blue Nile and South Kordofan states since 2011. A cease-fire was declared last month.
The talks are to focus on ending fighting in the south and facilitate a national dialogue process.
“We are ready to talk on the two areas but issues related to the entire Sudan should be left to the national dialogue, which is in progress,” Gandour said.
“I have discussed with Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, in Addis Ababa on Friday, various issues of regional interest, which include the withdrawal of the United Nations–African Union Mission in Darfur from Sudan."
“We also discussed and agreed to implement the South Sudanese peace deal in full.”
Turning to ties with the U.S., Gandour said there were “serious problems” between the U.S. and Sudan but “diplomatic rapprochement is underway and we are engaged in discussions at different levels.”
He said Sudan had set out a roadmap to normalize relations at a meeting with Secretary of State John Kerry in Washington earlier this month.
“This requires the U.S. to lift its economic sanctions and erase Sudan from its list of states sponsoring terrorism,” he said. “On our part, we will demonstrate that Sudan is a peace-loving nation with no tie to any form of terrorism.”
The U.S. designated Sudan as a state sponsor of terrorism in 1993 and suspended embassy operations in 1996. The U.S. embassy was reopened in 2002.
In Yemen, where Sudan is part of the Saudi-led coalition fighting Houthi rebels, Gandour said: “We support the territorial integrity of Yemen and oppose the overthrow of a state by force and our engagement will continue.”
He also welcomed Turkey’s links to Africa. “There is no doubt that Turkey plays a significant role in assisting African nations in the global forum,” he said. “Turkey’s relations with Sudan and the entire Africa is growing.”
He also called for a political solution to the conflict in Syria but stressed that Sudan would not interfere in the internal affairs of another country.