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Sudan and major rebel group agree to resume peace talks

FILE PHOTO: Sudan's Sovereign Council Chief General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, South Sudan's President Salva Kiir and Sudan's Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok lift copies of a signed peace agreement with the country's five key rebel groups in Juba

JUBA/KHARTOUM (Reuters) – Sudan’s power-sharing government and a major rebel group active in southern borderlands have agreed to hold new peace talks hosted by South Sudan, both sides said on Friday, days after Khartoum signaled a peace deal with other groups.

The Khartoum government agreed the move with the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North led by Abdelaziz al-Hilu, one of the groups that did not join a deal signed on Monday to end wars stemming from the rule of ousted strongman Omar al-Bashir.

Hilu’s group has now agreed with the Khartoum government on the necessity to reach a complete political solution in Sudan and address the root causes of its conflicts, the office of Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok said on its website.

It said both sides had agreed to set up workshops for different issues but gave no timeframe or details.

Hilu’s group, one of the biggest rebel forces that control territory in southern borderlands, confirmed the deal.

“We will continue negotiation under Juba mediation. So far, there’s no agreed date for the talks,” Aman Amum, the group’s chief negotiator, told Reuters.

He sent Reuters a picture showing Hamdok and Hilu signing a document in English in Ethiopia on Thursday in which both sides pledged to achieve a democracy and “separation of religion and state”, a major break from Bashir’s repressive Islamist regime.

There was no immediate comment from South Sudan, which hosted the talks that led to Monday’s deal.

Hilu’s group operates in a region inhabited by minority Christians and followers of African beliefs, who complain of long discrimination under Bashir, who was ousted last year, and seek a secular democratic state for the Muslim-majority country.

Sudan has been riven by conflicts for decades. After the oil-rich south seceded in 2011, an economic crisis fueled protests which led to Bashir’s overthrow.

Three major groups signed Monday’s deal, including factions from Darfur where more than 300,000 people are estimated to have been killed and 2.5 million displaced since 2003.

Sudan’s civilian and military leaders, who have shared power since then, say ending conflicts is a top priority to help bring democracy and peace to a country in crisis.

(Reporting by Denis Jumo and Khalid Abdelaziz; Writing by Ulf Laessing, Editing by William Maclean and Mark Heinrich)

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