UN: South Sudan's independence may help to settle Darfur conflict

UN: South Sudan's independence may help to settle Darfur conflict

The Sudanese government in Khartoum was urged on Friday to show flexibility and compromise in talks to settle its conflict with rebel forces in the western province of Darfur, dpa reported.

The UN special envoy for Sudan, Ibrahim Gambari, said the fact that South Sudan seceded from the rest of Sudan cannot be ignored by Khartoum and should be taken into account in dealings about Darfur.

South Sudan became an independent nation on July 9 and was given UN membership last week in a effort to propel the underdeveloped nation to a better future.

Gambari said Khartoum has now lost one-third of Sudan's population, one-third of its territory and one-third of its economic revenue with the southern secession. He said Khartoum should now think about keeping Darfur, where a civil war with African rebel forces has killed more than 300,000 people since 2003 and made 2.5 million refugees.

"How to respond to the fact may include making compromise and show flexibility," Gambari told reporters following a closed-door session with the UN Security Council to discuss progress in the peace process in Darfur.

He said Khartoum may continue to use force to keep Darfur. But he said the option "cannot be accepted."

In his report to the 15-nation council, Gambari said Darfur has had seen less fighting since January, with 400 people killed in the past six months. Fighting in South Sudan between Khartoum and the south's military inflicted four times more fatalities during the same period.

A joint UN-African Union peacekeeping operation with about 20,000 military and civilian personnel has been maintaining peace and security in Darfur. The peace negotiations, conducted mostly with AU mediation in Doha, resulted in agreements signed between Khartoum and the main rebel forces in Darfur. But less important rebel groups still have refused to join in the process.

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