Russia welcomes Sudan declaration as first step to Darfur peace

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Sudan has begun to make its first steps toward a settlement in Darfur by signing a peace declaration with the region's largest rebel group, the Russian president's envoy for Sudan said on Wednesday.
MOSCOW, February 18 (RIA Novosti) - Sudan has begun to make its first steps toward a settlement in Darfur by signing a peace declaration with the region's largest rebel group, the Russian president's envoy for Sudan said on Wednesday.

The declaration was signed on Tuesday in Doha, Qatar, by the Khartoum government and the Justice and Equality Movement. As an initial step, the document foresees the security of refugee camps and the safe movement of humanitarian aid into the area. Further points include a framework agreement for a ceasefire, leading finally to a peace agreement within three months.

"There is no suggestion that this document means peace in Darfur. However, it does instill the distinct hope that a peace process and dialogue between the warring sides has begun in the province," Russian senator and presidential envoy Mikhail Margelov told RIA Novosti.

Andrei Nesterenko, a spokesman for Russia's Foreign Ministry, welcomed the agreement, but cautioned it was "only a first, although clearly important, step."

One of the key conditions to a comprehensive settlement in Darfur, he said on Tuesday, was "to include the Darfuri groups who today have distanced themselves from the Doha agreements."

Although the Justice and Equality Movement is the largest militant group in Sudan, several other groups were not included in the talks in Doha, including the Jem Collective Leadership, Zaghawa ethnic group, and Darfuri tribal leaders living in refugee camps in neighboring Chad.

According to the UN, more than 300,000 people have been killed and around 2.7 million displaced in the ongoing conflict in Darfur.

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