A Darfur peace conference that began in Sirte on Saturday is a "new start" for the international community to facilitate the peace process in the western Sudanese region, a Chinese special envoy has said.
Liu Guijin, China's special envoy on the Darfur issue, made the remarks in an interview with Chinese reporters when attending the peace talks between the Sudanese government and rebel factions in the Libyan coastal city of Sirte.
The negotiations also provided a new opportunity for dialogue between the two sides, although the main rebel factions refused to take part in it, he said.
The conference, whose participants also include civilian groups and women's organizations, is not a failure as it has drawn attention from the international community, Liu said.
He said the peace talks should be regarded as a start of a new round of efforts by the international community to seek a political solution to the Darfur issue.
During the conference, the Sudanese government announced a unilateral cease-fire and rebel factions expressed their wishes for reconciliation, Liu said.
The international community also reached consensus on making more efforts to boost the peace process in Darfur, he said.
The Chinese envoy said Western nations should recognize the complexity of the Darfur issue and work for a solution with a practical and realistic approach.
The region's development and reconstruction will be out of the question if the concerned parties fail to exercise great restraint and declare a ceasefire as soon as possible, he said.
Liu said the international community should also exert influence on rebel factions in Darfur and make them promise a ceasefire in the region.
China is ready to continue to make active contributions to resolving the Darfur issue, he said.
The Darfur peace talks, which have been deadlocked since a peace agreement was signed between the Sudanese government and a main anti-government group in May 2006, was resumed in Sirte under the co-sponsorship of the United Nations and the African Union.
The Sudanese government announced a unilateral ceasefire in Darfur on Saturday evening at the opening session of the talks, which aim to end a four-year conflict in the region.
However, six rebel factions from war-torn Darfur refused to attend the conference, saying "the Khartoum government does not have the necessary legitimacy to negotiate."
(Xinhua News Agency October 30, 2007)