KHARTOUM, Sudan, Jan. 18 (UPI) -- Top U.N. and African Union officials met with commanders of the rebel Sudan Liberation Army seeking to end the conflict in Sudan's Darfur region.
Officials say the negotiations between U.N. Special Envoy Jan Eliasson and his A.U. counterpart Salim Ahmed Salim and commanders of the SLA, Abdul Wahid faction are an effort to help the rebel movements consolidate their positions potentially paving the way for peace negotiations, the United Nations reported.
U.N. officials estimate the conflict between the Sudanese government and the rebel factions has driven approximately 2.5 million people from their homes since 2003 and has resulted in the death of over 200,000 others.
During the four-hour meeting in Northwest Darfur an SLA spokesman confirmed the group's readiness to participate in the political process with government officials so long as their weren't pre-conditions to negotiations.
SLA officials welcomed the presence of Martin Luther Agwai, U.N.-A.U. mission in Darfur force commander who accompanied the envoys and expressed willingness to cooperate with the U.N.-A.U. mission. "Gen. Agwai promised to meet with them again next week to discuss plans for deploying troops and other issues pertaining to UNAMID," the release said.