Thursday, September 18, 2008

Sudan, Chad to Restore Diplomatic Ties

Sudan, Chad to restore diplomatic ties

LIBREVILLE--Sudan and Chad are to restore diplomatic relations, which broke off in May, mediators said on Tuesday, paving the way to create a peacekeeping and security force on their common border.

The contact group, which comprises Gabon, Libya, Congo, Senegal, Eritrea, Chad and Sudan, issued a statement on Tuesday confirming the breakthrough, five months after Khartoum severed ties accusing Ndjamena of backing rebels in its Darfur region.

"Fruitful exchanges have enabled the firm commitment of Chad and Sudan to formally restore diplomatic relations with the exchange of ambassadors before the contact group’s sixth meeting in October in Ndjamena," it said.

The statement came after a contact group meeting scheduled for tomorrow to discuss the issue in the Eritrean capital Asmara.

The meeting also decided to finalise preparations for a security force of 1 000 Sudanese and 1 000 Chadian soldiers to protect observers who would monitor the border.

"The contact group is committed to deploying a peacekeeping and security force as soon as possible and open an operational command centre in Tripoli," the Libyan capital, the statement said.

The details on the organisation of the security forces still have to be "finalised," Chad’s Foreign Minister Moussa Faki told AFP on Tuesday.

"We will have to finalise all that," Faki said by telephone from Libreville.

"The principle has been agreed. Chad supplies 1 000 men and Sudan supplies another 1 000."

But Faki ruled out further joint operations between Chad and Sudan, except those carried out under the control of EUFOR, the EU’s peacekeeping mission which has a presence in central Africa.

Chadian rebels welcomed the agreement but threatened to take arms again if "a true peace process was not set in motion," rebel leader Abderaman Koulamallah told AFP.

"We reiterate our desire for a true peace process in Chad. If there is no peace process, there will be war," he said.

Sudan broke off diplomatic relations with Chad in May after Darfur rebels of the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) launched an attack near the capital Sudanese capital, Khartoum.

Chad denied any involvement but relations between the two countries have long been difficult, with each country denying the other’s accusations that they are supporting rebel movements fighting against their respective regimes.

"Sudan needs to sort out the problem of Darfur and stop trying to make itself believe that Chad is part of the problem," Faki said. The two countries also broke off diplomatic relations in 2006 for four months after a rebel attack on Chad. — AFP.

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