Sudan's government and the country’s main rebel group agreed to extend a ceasefire agreement at peace talks aimed at ending Africa’s longest-running civil war which has claimed the lives of some two million people.
“One of the things we have agreed as a first measure will be an extension of the cessation of hostilities agreement,” Kenyan Foreign Minister Kalonzo Musyoka, who is mediating between the warring factions, told reporters.
“This will be extended for another two months and an agreement to that effect will be signed.”
The current truce is due to expire on 30 September.
Signed in October 2002, the agreement had an original life expectancy of six months. It was extended twice in March and again in June as negotiations over a formal end to the ruinous war dragged on.
John Garang, head of the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA), and First Vice-President Ali Osman Muhammad have been in peace talks for the past 14 days at Lake Naivasha in Kenya.
The decision-makers are all there, so there can be no excuses about not having the right people in the room”
John Prendergast of the International Crisis Group
Civil war broke out in Africa's largest country in 1983 with the government in the north pitted against rebels fighting for more autonomy in the south.
Musyoka said he was “very encouraged” about the talks.
“The two brothers will continue to talk and they will work very, very hard," he said.
“The amount of international goodwill is simply overwhelming and everybody in Sudan is looking forward to the successful outcome of these consultations,” he added.
Garang told reporters on Sunday that a further two months of peace would be enough for the two parties to reach a final settlement.
Talks have stumbled over three disputed regions which both sides claim, splitting the country’s oil wealth and the disbanding of John Garang’s army. The north has argued that unless this happens the south will seek immediate independence.
Under an agreement signed in Kenya in July last year, the south will enjoy autonomy from Khartoum during a six-year interim period following which a referendum will be held to determine whether the south will secede or remain part of Sudan.
“The decision-makers are all there, so there can be no excuses about not having the right people in the room,” said John Prendergast of the International Crisis Group.
“If the process collapses now, it will be the responsibility of specific individuals,” he added.