A spokesperson for Djibril Bassolé, the joint African Union-United Nations mediator to Darfur, announced over the weekend that Sudanese government officials, and representatives from Darfur’s most significant rebel group, the Justice and Equality Movement, or JEM, will meet in Qatar today. This meeting is the first ever publicly acknowledged “one-on-one” discussion between government officials and the JEM rebels, and a JEM spokesperson said that the two parties were set to discuss “possible confidence-building measures, including the release of prisoners and a cessation of hostilities for a set period of time.”
While the talks could be a first step toward a new peace process for Darfur, it is worth wondering if the Sudanese government might be taking advantage of Bassolé’s ongoing efforts to bring the government and rebel parties to the table at a crucial juncture: the weeks preceding the expected ruling from the International Criminal Court on whether to issue an arrest warrant for President Omar al-Bashir on charges of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity.
Meanwhile, the Washington Post notes today that Sudan is, “hardly being treated like an international pariah,” and is set to potentially increase its diplomatic standing as the 2009 chair of a U.N. bloc of developing nations, known as the Group of 77.
The joint mediator, with the backing of the international community, must ensure that the Qatar talks do not devolve into yet another flourish in Khartoum’s “charm offensive”—which should not be confused with their aerial bombing offensive in South Darfur last week.