Cablegate: Darfur Talks, Day Two and Three

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.





E.O. 12958: N/A



1. (SBU) Summary. Despite initial wrangling over agenda
items and the presence of the international community
during negotiating sessions, talks between the Sudanese
Government and rebel movements started on August 24. The
parties emerged from several closed-door sessions with an
agenda to frame the discussions, but the rebel movements'
objections to including the cantonment of troops on the
agenda threatened the start of the discussions. Overnight,
international observers were able to convince the rebel
movements to drop their objections, and a United Nations
Representative kicked-off the proceedings August 25 with a
bleak presentation of the humanitarian situation in Darfur.
Discussions recessed again to allow all parties to review a
U.N. status report. International observers, concerned
that the talks appear to have little direction, are working
with the African Union team to formulate a more cohesive
mediation strategy with defined goals and desired outcomes
from the various sessions. End Summary.

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2. (SBU) On August 24, the Sudanese Government, rebel
movements and African Union emerged from three closed-door
sessions with an agenda (reftel) for the discussions that
includes humanitarian, security, political, and socio-
economic issues. The rebel delegations insisted, much to
Nigerian President Obasanjo's displeasure, that
international observers (U.S., UK, EU) be allowed to
participate in negotiation sessions. Obasanjo insisted
Darfur is an African problem requiring an African solution,
but AU delegation members accepted that the rebels would
not drop their insistence on the presence of international
observers, and that the international delegations were
important in helping keep the rebels at the table.
Eventually, the AU and Obasanjo relented and agreed to
allow the international community to be present during the

3. (SBU) The rebels also objected in the closed-door
session to the inclusion of cantonment of troops on the
agenda. Obasanjo over-ruled them and left cantonment on
the agenda. As the talks opened later that evening, the
rebels once again raised their objection. Several
mediators attempted to convince the rebel movements that
the cantonment issue was up for discussion and its
inclusion on the agenda did not constitute their agreement
to canton their fighters. AU Special Envoy Hamid Al-Gabid
adjourned the discussion and requested that international
observers persuade the rebels to drop their objections to
the agenda.

4. (SBU) The U.S., UK, EU and Swedish delegates met with
JEM and SLM/A representatives to discuss their concerns and
advise them to move ahead with the agenda. Both movements
admitted that they had made a tactical mistake, but they
said they were under pressure from their field commanders
not to concede anything on cantonment. Skittish from their
experience at the Humanitarian Cease-Fire talks in Ndjamena
in April, the rebels expressed their fear of being rail-
roaded by African heads of states. We emphasized the
importance of getting the talks focused on the situation on
the ground and not procedural issues and pointed out the
opportunities that the agenda offered to them. Both JEM
and SLM/A listened to our advice and dropped their
objections to move the talks forward.

5. (SBU) Talks resumed on August 25 as the rebels dropped
their objections to the agenda. A humanitarian update from
the United Nations kicked-off the session. Unfortunately,
the representative was waiting for the report of the Joint
Implementation Mission (JIM), which was expected later in
the day. Nonetheless, the UN painted a bleak picture of
the humanitarian situation and outlined the overwhelming
needs yet to be met. The presentation emphasized the lack
of protection for civilians, sexual and gender-based
violence, and involuntary return as key issues for UN
partners. The Sudanese Government responded that they have
documents, maps, and other information to be formally
presented after they see they UN's JIM report. The meeting
was adjourned until August 26 while all parties could
review the JIM report and develop their response.

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5. (SBU) In an effort to instill more confidence in the
mediation team, we arranged for Ahmed Togod Lissan (JEM),
Tagledin Niam (JEM), Dr. Sharif Harir (SLM/A), and Mini
Minawi (SLM/A) to meet with Nigerian Special Envoy
Abdulsalami Abubakar on Darfur. Abubakar is part of the
mediation team and had traveled to IDP camps in Darfur in
early July. Abubakar told the rebels to trust the
mediators because their personal integrity is on the line.
He also emphasized the importance of talking versus
fighting and the strategic value in working through the
agenda as presented. The rebel leaders expressed their
reservations about the cantonment issue but assured
Abubakar that they would continue with the items on the
agenda. We are planning to arrange similar meetings to
help familiarize the rebels with key members of the
mediation team that will allow informal discussions away
from the table.

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6. (SBU) We are also working with the African Union
mediation team to help conceptualize the objectives of the
talks. The sessions so far are unfocused and consist of
each party presenting its position without any follow-up by
the mediators to press the parties on key issues. We
discussed this concern with the mediation team and are
working together to define what is to be achieved and how
the mediators, facilitators, and international observers
can move both parties toward those goals.

7. (SBU) The talks are moving forward, albeit in
procedural fits and starts. We expect the discussion of
the humanitarian situation to continue on August 26. For
now, the AU mediators and international community are
working together to focus the direction of the discussions.
Finally, we are working to convince rebel movements not to
go ahead with their previously planned conference in
Germany on August 28 and 29.

8. (U) Minimize Considered.

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