Sudan's Bashir says ready for 2-month ceasefire for talks
KHARTOUM - Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir on Thursday proposed a two-month ceasefire with rebels fighting to overthrow his government and set a date for a new meeting in a national reconciliation process that collapsed in January, reported Reuters News Agency.
Wanted for alleged war crimes in Darfur, Bashir announced the talks in January 2014 to resolve conflicts in Sudan's border regions and has been trying to persuade rebels to attend the talks in Khartoum.
Bashir also repeated his offer of amnesty for rebels who agreed to put down their arms and join the national dialogue between the government and opposition parties.
The renewed dialogue will take place on 10 October, he said at a meeting to plan the future of the process with the handful of parties that will participate.
Eighteen of the 21 opposition parties that had initially agreed to participate in the dialogue at its inception in early 2014 pulled out this January, leaving the future of the reconciliation process in question.
"We announce our readiness for a comprehensive ceasefire for a period of two months until this dialogue has been completed in a healthy atmosphere," Bashir said.
"We renew the full amnesty for those bearing weapons who wish to take part in the dialogue," he said, but added that "anyone who bore arms and killed will not be released".
"We call for a stop to the war and this position is not the result of weakness, and we are advocates of peace and the biggest obstacles to this is the rejection of other parties in the war to engage in free dialogue," Bashir told members of the assembly.
Insurgents from Darfur and the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Army-North (SPLA-N) from the Blue Nile and South were due to meet the African Union chief mediator Thabo Mbeki in Addis Ababa on Friday to discuss the dialogue.
The rebels did not immediately comment but they, along with Sudan's mainstream opposition, have previously said they will not take part in the dialogue as the atmosphere is not conducive for the talks.
Darfur erupted into conflict in 2003 when mostly black, African rebels mounted a campaign against the Arab-dominated Khartoum government, saying they had been marginalised economically and politically.
The SPLA-N rebelled against Bashir in the Blue Nile and South Kordofan states in 2011 for similar reasons.
Some 300,000 people have been killed in Darfur alone and nearly 2.5 million forced to flee their homes, the United Nations says.
The International Criminal Court has indicted Bashir for alleged war crimes, crimes against humanity and on genocide charges connected to the Darfur conflict.
Thousands more people have also been displaced in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states.