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Sudan peace accord signed, state media reports

An estimated 2.7 million people fled their homes because of fighting among rebels and government in Darfur.
An estimated 2.7 million people fled their homes because of fighting among rebels and government in Darfur.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • A permanent cease-fire, according to preliminary accord, is to be signed before March 15
  • Qatar has been mediating between Sudan and rebel Justice and Equality Movement
  • Conflict erupted in 2003 after rebels began an uprising against the Khartoum government
  • In past seven years more than 300,000 people killed through combat, disease, malnutrition
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(CNN) -- Sudan on Tuesday signed a framework peace accord with rebels from the nation's volatile Darfur region, state media reported.

The framework agreement is considered the first step towards the achievement of a lasting peace accord in Darfur.

The signing of the cease-fire agreement with the rebel Justice and Equality Movement coincided with a four-way summit in Doha, Qatar, the state-run SUNA news agency said.

Participants at the summit include the emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani; Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir; the president of Chad, Idris Deby; and Eritrean President Assais Afwerki, SUNA reported.

The participants are expected to discuss means of achieving peace in the region, welcoming the steps for realizing peace in Darfur, progress of the relations between Qatar, Sudan, Chad and Eritrea and other issues of mutual concern, SUNA said.

Tahir al-Fati, chairman of the Justice and Equality Movement's legislative assembly, told CNN on Saturday that a preliminary document for the framework agreement was signed Saturday in Chad between representatives of the two sides.

A permanent cease-fire -- which, according to this preliminary accord, is to be signed before March 15 -- will be a final step, al-Fati said.

Last year, Sudan's government and the JEM rebels signed a confidence-building agreement in Qatar, a step toward ending the six-year conflict that has killed hundreds of thousands.

Qatar has been mediating talks between the two sides in the Darfur conflict, which erupted in 2003 after rebels began an uprising against the Khartoum government.

The government launched a brutal counterinsurgency campaign, aided by government-backed Arab militias that went from village to village in Darfur, killing, torturing and raping residents, according to the United Nations, Western governments and human rights organizations.

Al-Bashir is under pressure to end the fighting, particularly after the International Criminal Court charged him with genocide last year in connection with the government's campaign of violence in Darfur.

In the past seven years, more than 300,000 people have been killed through direct combat, disease or malnutrition, the United Nations says. An additional 2.7 million people fled their homes because of fighting among rebels, government forces and allied militias.

CNN's Jennifer Z. Deaton contributed to this report.