CAIRO: Egypt hosted a meeting between Sudan, the US and Libya Sunday regarding the Darfur conflict and southern Sudan, though the process and personnel involved drew the ire of some rebel faction leaders.
Intelligence chief Omar Suleiman and Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit played host to US envoy to Sudan, Scott Gration, Libyan Foreign and State Ministers Moussa Koussa and Mohamed Al-Sayala, as well as Sudan’s presidential advisor Ghazi Salah Al-Deen.
It was labeled a consultative meeting but notable by its absence was Qatar, which is currently mediating between the Sudanese government and one of the factions, the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM).
Egypt and Qatar have famously seen a new tension in their relationship after the Israeli offensive on Gaza last December, when Qatar was critical of the Egyptian stance on the opening of the Gaza border.
Gration later met with Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa and in comments given to reporters after that meeting, he praised the role that Libya was playing in attempting to unite the rebel factions.
I m very impressed and very grateful for the role that the Libyans are playing not only in rebel unification but in bringing peace between Chad and Sudan, he said, I see the Libyans have a very positive role… and we are very proud to be partners with the Libyans. The US envoy had recently hosted four Darfur factions in Ethiopia, one splinter group from JEM and three from the Sudanese Liberation Army, who had agreed to unite for talks with the government.
However, Gration has been on the receiving end of criticism from rebel leaders for his perceived impartiality in mediating the unity talks, which casts doubt on whether other rebel factions will be brought on board for unity talks.
In Paris Sunday, Sudanese Liberation Movement leader Abdel-Wahid Al-Nur told the Sudan Tribune that Gration had become one of the obstacles to the peace process, rather than helping in solving it.
“Instead of playing a positive role in the resolution of Darfur conflict in order to stop the ongoing violence against Darfur people, the special envoy of President Obama to Sudan abandoned his mission and has become a problem and an obstacle due to his non-neutral position, he said.
Al-Nur objected to what he perceived to be Gration overstepping the mandate of the UN-African Union mediator Djibril Bassole who had been successful alongside Libya in convincing rebel factions to attend the Doha peace conference with one delegation.
Gration has also been criticized by JEM leader Khalil Ibrahim, who boycotted the Ethiopia talks and accused the US envoy of acting “like a foreign minister for the Sudanese government after he requested some sanctions to be lifted from Sudan.
The envoy responded by saying he only called for the lifting of sanctions that hindered aid reaching Darfur and southern Sudan.
Since the beginning of the conflict in Darfur in 2003, some 300,000 people have lost their lives and 2.7 million have been displaced, according to UN estimates.