Sudan gov’t and SPLM-N sign agreement to pave way for peace talks

Document lays out several principles as a basis to resolve conflict, including guaranteeing citizens the right to freedom of religion and belief.

Video Transcript

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HIBA MORGAN: After months of deadlock, a resumption of talks between Sudan's transitional government and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North, led by Abdelaziz Alhilu has led to this. On Sunday, the two sides signed what's called the Declaration of Principles, a blueprint for talks to reach a final peace agreement in the South Sudanese capital Juba.

ABDEL FATTAH ALBURHAN: (VIA TRANSLATOR) The signing of the Declaration of Principles is the true and actual start of a showing that the transitional government is keen on change that leads to a just and fair peace, a peace that is satisfactory and leads to a Sudan that reflects all Sudanese people.

HIBA MORGAN: The Declaration of Principles states that the army of the SPLM-N and will be integrated into the national army by the end of Sudan's transitional period. How that is implemented has been left to future negotiations. It also includes clauses on the most controversial topic that's caused repeated breakdown in talks between the two sides, the relationship between state and religion. So that's been separated.

ABDELAZIZ ALHILU: This agreement with President Alburhan has actually allowed us to sign this Declaration of Principles. And the Declaration of Principles is going to pave the way for the two delegations to negotiate and to discuss the substantive issues-- political issues, humanitarian issues, security sector reform issues. So this is the value of this agreement of today on the Declaration of Principles.

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The roots of fighting between Sudan's government and the SPLM go back to the 21-year civil war that began in 1983 between the North and South. A short period of peace ended when fighting renewed in 2011, mostly in the South Kordofan and Blue Nile states. Hundreds of thousands of people have been killed and many more displaced over the past decade. Mediators like the aid organization World Food Program, say the Declaration of Principles will lead to stability.

DAVID BEASLEY: This is the final final building block for a foundation for peace for the future. And where you don't have peace, you have hunger. You have destabilization.

--that allow us to reach people, create sustainability and livelihoods so that one day, the World Food Program won't even need to be here. That can't happen without what happened today. To see these leaders come together, not just on paper, but in the heart, hearing their words coming from the heart, it's a new day. It truly is an amazing day for Sudan and South Sudan.

HIBA MORGAN: While many more rounds of talks lie ahead to reach a final deal, many people are celebrating. For them and the sides involved, the signing of the Declaration is the first significant step forward to end the conflict in the Southern regions. Hiba Morgan, Al Jazeera.