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Sudan, Chad 'turned the page'

2010-02-09 17:30

Khartoum - Sudanese President Omar al-Beshir said on Tuesday that Sudan had "completely turned the page" in its conflict with Chad and was ready to fully normalise relations with its neighbour.

"I say to our people in Sudan and in Chad, we have completely turned the page on problems between us," Beshir said, as Chadian President Idriss Deby Itno made his first visit to Sudan since 2004.

"This visit has put an end to the problems between Chad and Sudan," he further added during a joint news conference with Deby.

"We have agreed to work together to achieve peace and stability," he said.

Deby said he was also willing to work for a new start with Sudan.

"I have come with an open heart and my hand stretched out to write a new page in our relations," Deby said.

"I have no doubt that my brother Omar Hassan Ahmed al-Beshir has the same sentiments and will," Deby told over a thousand people gathered in Khartoum.

Strained relations

Chad and Sudan have had strained ties over the past five years, with Chad accusing Sudan of supporting rebels seeking to oust its government and Khartoum charging Ndjamena with backing ethnic minority rebels in western Darfur.

In March 2008, the two states signed the Dakar agreement in the Senegalese capital, but it crumbled months later when a key Darfur rebel group, the Justice and Equality Movement, launched an unprecedented assault on Khartoum.

This was followed by a surprise rebel attack on Ndjamena which came close to overthrowing Deby before government forces managed to rally and rout the insurgents.

But in mid-January, Sudan and Chad agreed to deploy a joint force on their border, in order to end the presence of rebels on each other's territory and halt their activities as part of normalisation efforts.

"When we were told that President Deby was coming to Khartoum it was a surprise, but a pleasant surprise," Beshir said.

Beshir said joint projects would be set up in the border area between both countries in order to help those affected by the Darfur conflict.

"A calm is not enough. Agreements and protocols alone cannot bring back confidence if politics are not included. It is time to outdo ourselves in order to seal this peace," Deby said.

Transform

"If I am with you today, it's not purely for an accolade, I have come so that we can transform the current calm into definitive peace," he said.

The Sudanese leader has accepted an invitation to visit Ndjamena, but no date has yet been set, Sudanese officials said.

In Jeddah, the Secretary General of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu expressed "great satisfaction" with Deby's visit.

"The landmark visit to Sudan by President Deby reflects the genuine commitment of the two leaders to work together towards settling all the differences and strengthening bilateral co-operation between the two neighbouring countries, members of the OIC," Ihsanoglu said.