, DOHA, Mar 18 – Sudan\’s government and a Darfur rebel group, the Liberation and Justice Movement, signed a framework peace accord on Thursday, as talks with the larger Justice and Equality Movement appeared to falter.
The agreement for a ceasefire and talks was signed in Doha by Ghazi Salahuddin, an adviser to Sudanese President Omar el-Bashir, and LJM leader El-Tijani El-Sissi.
"This is an important step which will give momentum to peace efforts in Darfur," said Sudanese Vice President Ali Osman Taha, who attended the signing of Qatari-sponsored agreement.
"We reiterate the commitment of the government of Sudan to press ahead with talks following this framework agreement.
The deal with the alliance of splinter rebel factions, which was formed last month, came after a deadline set for the completion of peace talks between Khartoum and the larger rebel group JEM passed without agreement on Monday.
The target was set by a framework accord inked last month and hailed by the international community as a major step towards bringing peace to Darfur, but the talks have since run into difficulty.
Sudanese authorities re-arrested 15 JEM members on Wednesday after having released them following the wavering truce.
One key rebel group – the Sudan Liberation Army faction of Abdelwahid Nur – has so far refused to have any negotiations with the government and earlier this month engaged in fierce clashes with the army in the fertile Jebel Marra plateau in the heart of Darfur.
Since ethnic minority rebels first rose up against the Arab-dominated government in Khartoum in 2003, the Darfur conflict has claimed some 300,000 lives and left 2.7 million people homeless, according to UN figures.
Khartoum puts the death toll at 10,000.