Sudanese rebels, government enter final phase of talks
The Sudanese government and a coalition of rebel groups have entered into a final phase of peace talks, which will center on the creation of a unified Sudanese army.
Mediators described the discussions as the "most important" component of the Sudan peace process, which aims to restore stability to the war-torn regions of Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile.
"This is the last chapter and the biggest chapter, the security arrangements in the peace negotiations. If we negotiate the security arrangements very well and in good faith we will have reached a sincere comprehensive peace agreement," said mediator Tutkew Gatluak in Juba, South Sudan.
The peace talks, which began in South Sudan in October, aim to end conflicts in three regions where rebels have fought bloody campaigns against marginalization by Khartoum under ousted president Omar al-Bashir.
Hopes of a deal were raised after Sudan's transitional government, led by Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, made ending conflict in these areas a priority.
Some of the issues already agreed upon include wealth and power-sharing, and autonomy for the Blue Nile and Kordofan regions.
Alhadi Idris Yahya, chairman of the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF) -- a coalition of nine rebel groups negotiating with the Sudanese government -- said the parties had agreed the SRF would have three seats in the sovereign council, currently running the country.
It would also get 25 percent of seats in parliament and the executive branch of government.The parties have also agreed on a timeline of 39 months for a transitional period after the signing of a comprehensive peace agreement.
"(...) At the end of the day the main aim of the security arrangements is to have what we call one unified Sudan army. As we speak now we have several armies ... and it is not an ideal situation in one country to have more than an army," said Yayha.
A second coalition of rebel groups, the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) from South Kordofan is negotiating separately.