12 January 2009The Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and a mainly Tutsi rebel group have set the stage for substantive dialogue and have turned their attention to a joint cessation of hostilities, the United Nations Special Envoy leading talks aimed at ending the deadly conflict in the vast African nation said today. “A full package of ground rules that will guide the substantive talks in the Nairobi Dialogue on the crisis in eastern Congo was agreed today,” according to a statement issued in the Kenyan capital by the spokesperson for the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region and Chief Mediator for the talks, Olusegun Obasanjo. “The delegations immediately moved to discuss a joint declaration of cessation of hostilities which they are seriously considering,” the statement added. The talks between the Government and the National Congress in Defense of the People (CNDP), which began in Nairobi in December, are seeking to bring an end to a conflict which has uprooted an estimated 250,000 people since late August, on top of the 800,000 already displaced in the region, mainly in North Kivu province, which borders Rwanda and Uganda.“The Special Envoy commended both parties for now engaging in direct talks designed to achieve a comprehensive cessation of hostilities, a very important aspect of the security issue,” the statement noted.Mr. Obasanjo, a former Nigerian president, will be in New York on Thursday to brief the Security Council on the latest progress in the talks, which he is co-mediating with former Tanzanian president Benjamin Mkapa, who is representing the African Union (AU) and the International Conference on the Great Lakes (ICGLR).