October 21, 2019 / 10:54 AM / a month ago

Sudan rebel leader says government agreed to open access for aid

JUBA, Oct 21 (Reuters) - Sudan has agreed to open humanitarian access to war-torn areas of the country for the first time in eight years as part of a new roadmap enabling suspended peace talks to resume, a rebel leader said on Monday.

“We are expecting that the humanitarian situation is going to improve in Darfur, Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile,” Yasir Arman, deputy head of a coalition of rebel groups, told Reuters.

The Sudanese government and major rebel groups agreed on Friday to the roadmap and signed a declaration confirming their commitment to it on Monday in Juba, the capital of South Sudan, which has hosted the talks for the past week.

“Peace is the ultimate goal of the government of Sudan,” Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, a leading member of Sudan’s transitional government, said after signing the agreement on Monday. “Peace will open a new path for the country. I appealed to the International Community to support the process.”

The roadmap includes a cessation of hostilities agreement, which both parties have repeatedly broken in the past. The parties agreed on Monday to resume talks after a two-week break.

An end to multiple conflicts in Sudan is a prerequisite for the United States to remove the country from its list of sponsors of terrorism.

Sudan is being led by a transitional government after a coup in April overthrew longtime autocrat Omar al Bashir after months of deadly protests.

The agreement to open humanitarian access is something that Bashir’s government refused to do for eight years, Arman said.

“We believe we have a partner in Khartoum and there’s a new environment created by the revolution,” he added.

The new government in Khartoum is anxious to make peace. The government is cash-strapped and in need of debt relief and financing from multilateral lenders, but its designation as a state sponsor of terrorism has cut it off from such support. (Reporting by Denis Dumo, Writing by Maggie Fick and Ed Osmond)

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