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Peace In Sudan A Top U.S. Priority

On-again, off-again efforts to finalize the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement that ended 20 years of North-South civil war in Sudan have been flagging again recently, threatened by parliamentary inaction and a government crackdown on southern political activists.

There has been some positive movement over the past several days, culminating in an agreement between the National Congress Party and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement to resolve several of the outstanding CPA issues, but more progress is still needed on those important issues that still remain. The United States stands ready to do all it can to help the parties to reach consensus.

Under the 2005 peace deal, Sudan is scheduled in April to conduct its first multi-party elections in 24 years. Following that, a referendum on self-determination will be held in January 2011 in Southern Sudan to determine whether Southern Sudan will break off as a separate country. Sudanese lawmakers face a large backlog of legislation before either vote can proceed, however.

Meanwhile, political tensions there are rising, as seen by the tear-gassing and detention by authorities in Omdurman of peaceful protestors and political figures urging passage of reforms seen as essential for the upcoming elections.

The United States condemns all use of violence in Sudan and calls for restraint and dialogue among all parties there. A breakdown of relations and negotiations would have an impact far beyond Sudan's borders. Any return to civil war could also destabilize the region.

The elections and the referendum are critical components of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement, and all parties must work to achieve serious reforms well before citizens go to the polls. Freedom of speech, assembly and protection against arbitrary arrest and detention are fundamental human rights that must be respected.