Chad backs Beshir despite EU arrest call

Chad President calls on CEN-SAD to support Doha process in view of fair, lasting peace settlementin Darfur.

NDJAMENA – A regional summit in Chad on Thursday backed Sudanese President Omar al-Beshir who is wanted for war crimes and genocide saying it rejected “all accusations” against him.

Chad President Idriss Deby Itno meanwhile called on regional leaders to back the peace process in Sudan and help solve the Darfur crisis, in a speech to a Community of Sahel-Saharan (CEN-SAD) states summit.

“Darfur continues to be a source of concern. CEN-SAD (the Community of Sahel-Saharan states) refutes all accusations against President Beshir. These accusations do not contribute to bringing peace to this part of Sudan,” said CEN-SAD chief Mohamed al-Madani al-Azhari.

“We declare our total support and our solidarity to Sudan and its people,” he added, speaking to an audience that included 13 heads of state including Beshir.

The visit by Beshir is his first to a country that recognises the International Criminal Court (ICC), and Chad has been strongly criticised by the EU and rights organisations for its refusal to arrest him.

“I would like to welcome the role played by our regional organisation in consolidating peace on our continent,” Deby told the summit on its opening day.

“Within its framework we must support the Doha process. As far as I am concerned, I appeal to all parties (involved in peace talks) to adhere to the Doha process in view of a fair and lasting peace settlement,” he said.

Deby was referring peace talks between the Sudanese government and rebels in Qatar’s capital.

Darfur’s main rebel group, the Justice and Equality Movement, signed a framework accord in February in Doha that was hailed by the international community as a major step toward bringing peace to the region devastated by a seven-year war.

But there was no final, comprehensive peace agreement by a March 15 deadline and JEM broke off from the talks that same month, claiming ceasefire violations and resumed attacking government forces.

A Qatari mediator said Thursday that a ceasefire had been agreed between the Sudanese government and another rebel group, the Liberty and Justice Movement (LJM).

The LJM is the only rebel faction currently in currently in talks with Khartoum, and it enjoys little backing.

A senior US diplomat in Chad spoke with local leaders on Thursday about Beshir’s visit and said that a recent thaw between Khartoum and Ndjamena was a “positive development,” State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said in Washington.

“If this cooperation continues, lives will be saved on the ground in Sudan and in Darfur,” he said.

Crowley denied that Chad “has been given a pass” on arresting Beshir, saying that the United States also stressed the country’s “responsibilities” over the International Criminal Court.

“We still have communicated to Chad that it has responsibilities as a signatory under the Rome statute and needs to continue to fulfill its obligations under the ICC,” Crowley said.

Earlier this month, the International Criminal Court (ICC) added three genocide counts to the charges against Beshir.

In March last year, the ICC issued a warrant for Beshir’s arrest on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity, its first ever for a sitting head of state.

Darfur, an arid desert region the size of France, has been gripped by a civil war since 2003 that has killed 300,000 people and displaced another 2.7 million, according to UN figures. Khartoum says 10,000 people have died.

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