Darfur donor meeting eyeing US$2 billion opens in Cairo

Investment in infrastructure, health, education and agriculture is vital to ending conflict in Sudan’s Darfur region and nurturing the relative peace from recent ceasefire deals, Egypt said at a donor meeting on Sunday.
The one-day development and reconstruction conference, co-chaired by Turkey, aims to raise US$2 billion for projects such as cement plants, roads and villages for displaced people.

Turkey has said it will give US$60-75 million from now until 2015 for water, education and agricultural projects, while Algeria said it would give $10 million with a focus on health and job training.

"Since the beginning of the crisis in Darfur, the basic issue has been one of development, which has taken on political, tribal and social dimensions," Egypt’s Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said in an opening statement.

"This is what makes us certain the core solution to the Darfur crisis must focus on increasing rates of development and improving the standard of living for each citizen in Darfur," he added.

The donor conference is backed by the 57-member Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), but also includes representatives from China, the United States, Russia, Britain, France and others.

Sudan has been pushing to resolve the conflict in its western Darfur region before elections next month, and has signed ceasefire deals with two rebel groups since February.

Some fighting has continued, however, and talks toward a final peace pact with the main rebel group the Justice and Equality Movement have been faltering.

Donors have convened several conferences for Sudan, stricken by multiple conflicts over the years, but complicated aid structures have held up some spending and not all pledges have fully materialized.

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