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Stopping The Violence In Darfur

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick is trying to ensure that peace talks about Sudan's Darfur region stay on track. He met with members of the largest rebel group, the Sudanese Liberation Movement, which has been negotiating with the Sudanese government.

Fighting broke out in Darfur in 2003 after rebels complained that the region had been marginalized by the central government. Rebels affiliated with the Sudanese Liberation Movement and the Justice and Equality Movement attacked Sudanese government facilities. Supported by the Sudanese government, Janjaweed Arab militia responded by launching attacks on civilians from Sudan's African Fur, Masalit, and Zaghawa groups in Darfur.

In July, the Sudanese government and the rebel groups agreed on a declaration of principles, which called for an end to hostilities, the guarantee of tribal ownership of land in Darfur, and increased autonomy for the region. But there has been an upsurge of violence in Darfur, which Deputy Secretary of State Zoellick says "risks unraveling the very fragile situation in Darfur":

"We've got to regain the momentum by getting people to respect the cease-fire, come up with a coherent negotiating position, and when the negotiations resume on November 20th, to get the rebels as well as the government of national unity to make more progress in a peace accord, because fighting and killing will not provide the long-term solution to peace in Darfur."

Nearly seven-thousand peacekeepers from the African Union have moved into the Darfur region, but Mr. Zoellick says they are not the answer:

"All these forces can do is maintain a fragile truce until there's a peace agreement, because until you get the peace negotiations done, you keep two million people in [refugee] camps. You have the Janjaweed in there; they're not demobilized. And people can't return [to the Darfur region]."

Mr. Zoellick acknowledged the difficulty. "While you are bickering," he told the rebels, "people are dying." All sides in Darfur, said Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick, "need to apply themselves to the hard work of peace."

The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.