The Catholic Aid Agency CAFOD said today it was delighted that this week the Sudan peace talks have made substantial progress by agreeing new ceasefire terms and wealth sharing arrangements. Yesterday the Sudanese Government and Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A), agreed to set up a commission looking into how to divide up the country's oil resources - an issue of major importance in the civil war. Additionally earlier this week both sides agreed to return any territory taken since signing the truce last year. Both sides have broken the ceasefire with the last infringement coming at the end of January from pro-government troops. Now international observers from Britain, Norway, Italy and the United States will investigate any reported breaks in the ceasefire. Both are major moves forward in the negotiations striving for an end to Sudan's civil war that has raged since 1983 and has killed about two million people. The news comes as preparations are underway for the meeting of the General Assembly Sudan Ecumenical Forum in Pretoria at the end of this month. This will bring together around 70 members of churches and related bodies from all over the world to add their voice to the Sudan Peace Process. Members of the South African Government and the country's Truth and Reconciliation Committee will work with the Forum to share their experiences of bringing a divided country together again. CAFOD Horn of Africa team leader Rob Rees, who has been involved in Sudanese work for 16 years, said "These talks represent the brightest hope for the Sudanese people for many years. We are greatly encouraged that both sides are investing in the peace process and have not allowed themselves to be distracted by breaks in the ceasefire. The Pretoria meeting will examine how the church and civil society can participate in shaping a new Sudan. In their negotiations, the Sudanese Government and SPLA/M must not lose sight of the needs of the rest of the population, a people traumatised and devastated by the war." The Sudanese Forum takes place from 24 to 26 February 2003 in Pretoria. The civil war in Sudan is between the government in mainly Muslim northern Sudan and the Christian and animist southern Sudan. The truce was signed in July last year and if peace negotiations are successful, an interim government will hold power for six years before a referendum on self-determination is held in the south.
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