TOO LITTLE, TOO...

TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE. Robert Zoellick is en route to Abuja, Nigeria, to try and rescue stalled negotiations between the Darfuri rebel groups and the government of Sudan. The Darfur rebels want a peace accord that loosely resembles the Comprehensive Peace Accords signed in January 2005, which gave the Southern rebels the vice president�s office in the national government and paved the way for autonomy in six years. This kind of deal seems to be a non-starter for Khartoum, so the rebels, who do not speak with one voice, have broken away from negotiations.

Even if a deal is brokered it is unlikely to stop the dying in Darfur. As they did last year, Khartoum could use the forthcoming rainy season as an opportunity to further impede humanitarian access to refugee camps. Still, a nominal peace agreement is significant because China and Russia consider it a pre-requisite for even discussing the possibility of a UN peace keeping force for Darfur. So it seems that a peace deal, even if it is unsatisfactory to the rebels, could pave the way for an eventual UN force in Darfur. Still, even if Zoellick is able to save the negotiations -- which seems less likely now that Khartoum�s main power broker, Ali Osman Taha, has left Abuja -- a peace keeping force will not arrive any time soon.

High-level engagement from the United States in these talks came too little, too late. This is no Rambouillet. The secretary of state is nowhere near Abuja, nor has she convinced the rebels (as Madeline Albright was able to convince the Kosovo Liberation Army) that even if the peace talks are a charade, it would be in their better interests to sign the paper.

--Mark Leon Goldberg

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