Sudan’s ruling council and rebel leaders agreed on a roadmap for peace talks expected to begin in October and last about two months, officials from both sides said.
The council, a transitional government, made peace-making with rebels fighting Khartoum a main priority as it is a key condition for the country’s removal from the United States’ sponsors of terrorism list.
The council took over government in August after military and civilian parties and protest groups signed a three-year power-sharing deal. This followed months of strife after the removal of long-ruling authoritarian president Omar al-Bashir in April.
South Sudan brought together members of the council and rebel leaders from several areas.
Thousands of people died in Sudan’s civil wars, including the conflict in western Darfur, where rebels fought against then-President Bashir’s government since 2003.
Sudanese officials and rebels signed the initial agreement in front of diplomats to set a two-month period for talks, starting on October 14 and running until mid-December.
“Today’s signing aims at implementation of the peace confidence building that came in the constitutional declaration,” said Yasir Arman, deputy chairman of the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Army-North (SPLM-North).
Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, a member of the sovereign council and head of the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), signed on behalf of government.
“We assure you and the people of Sudan we are ready to pay all the damages of the war and assure you the time of war is gone forever,” Dagalo said.
The talks will potentially deal with issues of cessation of hostilities will be monitored and modalities for providing humanitarian access to all parts of Darfur and Blue Nile, he said.
Darfur’s war pits local rebel groups drawn largely from African farming tribes complaining about neglect against government forces in a conflict that has displaced about 2.5 million people.
The fighting in Darfur subsided over the past four years where the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and two factions of the Sudanese Liberation Army (SLA) are active, but skirmishes continue.
SPLA-N rebels are active in South Kordofan and Blue Nile, two southern regions in Sudan, have largely committed to a ceasefire over the past two years. They have been fighting Khartoum’s rule since ending up on the Sudanese side of the border when South Sudan seceded in 2011.