CAIRO: Under French pressure, and presided over by Egypt and Ghana, the leaders of Sudan, Chad and the Central African Republic signed an accord in an attempt to stop the violence in Darfur from spilling over into neighboring countries.
The agreement crowned a mini-summit that took place under the umbrella of the larger African summit held in Cannes, France.
French President Jacques Chirac opened the summit with an appeal to allow international peace keeping troops into the war-torn area, an idea that the Sudanese government opposes for fear of losing sovereignty.
Egypt supports the Sudanese stance and advocates an African peace keeping force.
Since 2003 when the Darfur crisis began, 200,000 people have been killed and more than 2.5 million have been displaced.
The conflict has spilt into neighboring countries with the three countries involved accusing each other of backing rebels on their soil.
Chirac said in his opening statement at the summit: “I am calling on the belligerents and the government of Sudan to accept the deployment of a peace force, to halt the attacks, to respect the civilian population and humanitarian workers, to accept the impasse and the horror of this policy and to choose reconciliation.
President of Ghana John Kufour, who holds the African Union presidency and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, oversaw the meeting between the warring nations.
Chadian Foreign Minister Ahmat Allam-Mi, who had earlier dismissed the usefulness of such a meeting, stated that the accord did not hold sway in and of itself, and requested action to add weight to it, alluding to a similar accord signed in Tripoli the previous year.
“We could not refuse Paris, but we have no illusions about this signing. In the past, such accords were not followed up with action, he said.
The France-Africa Summit kicked off in the city of Cannes Thursday in the presence of 30 African leaders in what will be French President Jacques Chirac’s last attendance of such a meeting.
Entitled “Africa and World Balance , this is the 24th installment of the bi-annual event. The focus will be on Africa’s oil and mineral wealth as more countries make a concerted effort to enter the African market, especially China.
Although not on the summit agenda, the Darfur crisis was also due to be discussed in a meeting held between the presidents of Sudan and its neighbors the Central African Republic and Chad Thursday afternoon to address the immediate situation.
Egypt will host the next France-Africa summit in 2009.