Rebels in the Central African Republic said on Wednesday they were suspending their advance and would hold peace talks with the government, after regional armies sent reinforcements to stop them reaching the capital Bangui.
The Seleka rebel coalition’s lightning three-week advance from the north of the country to within striking distance of the capital Bangui in the south has raised fears of a spreading crisis and drawn regional calls for negotiations with the government in the Gabonese capital Libreville.
Rebel spokesman Eric Massi announced the rebels were ready to talk, saying: “I confirm that we have decided to suspend the offensive towards Bangui, and that we will send a delegation to Gabon to participate in peace talks.”
“I have asked our forces not to move their positions starting today because we want to enter talks in Libreville [Gabon’s capital] for a political solution,” Massi told Reuters on Wednesday.
“I am in discussion with our partners to come up with proposals to end the crisis, but one solution could be a political transition that excludes Bozize.”
On Tuesday President François Bozize offered to negotiate with the rebels, but said he should be allowed to finish his term in 2016 before standing down.
Diplomatic sources have said talks organised by central African regional bloc ECCAS could start on January 10. The United States, the European Union and France have called on both sides to negotiate and spare civilians.