JUBA - The Sudanese government and a coalition of rebel groups on Monday extended peace talks for another three weeks after missing a deadline for a final peace deal.
The Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF) - a coalition of nine rebel groups - and Khartoum representatives signed a deal to keep negotiations going after failing to wrap up talks by February 15.
"Hopefully this will be the last extension for these talks," SRF deputy secretary general Yasir Arman said.
Important steps have been made to "finalise a peace agreement," Arman said.
The peace talks, which began in South Sudan in October, aim to end conflicts in Darfur, Blue Nile and South Kordofan, where rebels have fought bloody campaigns against marginalisation by Khartoum under ousted president Omar al-Bashir.
Hopes of a peace deal were raised after Sudan's transitional government, led by Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, made ending conflict in these areas a priority.
Hamdok, who was accompanied by UN officials, travelled January 9 to the rebel stronghold of Kauda in South Kordofan province, the first visit of a senior Sudanese official to the town in nine years.
Sudan’s transitional government has been engaging in peace talks with rebel groups since October, looking to stabilize the country and steer it towards democracy following the military’s overthrow of longtime autocrat Omar al-Bashir last April after nearly three decades in power.
Sudanese rebels have for years fought al-Bashir's loyalists, not just in Darfur but also in the southern provinces of Blue Nile and South Kordofan. The rebels have observed a cease-fire since before Bashir’s overthrow, in solidarity with the protest movement against him.