The United States said on Monday that a weekend deal signed by the Sudanese government and the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Army/Movement (SPLA/M) was a "significant step" towards ending the country's nearly twenty-year-old civil war.
State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the agreement, called the Machakos Protocol after the Kenyan town in which it was signed, was a sign that both the Islamic government in Khartoum and the main Christian and animist SPLA/M could reach a final settlement, AFP reported.
"The signing of the Machakos Protocol by the government of Sudan and the Sudanese People's Liberation Movement is a significant step in moving toward a just and lasting peace," Boucher told reporters. "This interim measure is a strong indication that the parties are both willing and capable of reaching a negotiated settlement to Sudan's war," he added.
Saturday's agreement does not yet include a cease-fire, however, according to the deal, the non-Muslim south will get a chance to vote on independence from the Muslim-dominated north after six years of autonomy, though they also said they were committed to unity.
The deal, brokered by the east African IGAD grouping, comes less than a year after Washington became actively involved in efforts to end the 19-year war which has claimed around 1.5 million lives and displaced an estimated four million people.
Earlier this year, US special envoy for Sudan, former senator John Danforth, recommended that Washington increase its engagement to try to end the conflict. The Machakos Protocol, which has three main components on Religion and State, Right of Self-Determination for the south, and the Framework for Negotiations -- was signed after more than a month of talks attended by US, Norwegian, British and Swiss observers, Boucher further added. (Albawaba.com)
© 2002 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com )