Government officials and representatives of the fourteen groups that met properly in Khartoum from 24 January met at the CAR. They sometimes met face-to-face, while the AU commission team, led by Chergui, shuttled between them to resolve disputes. Important international partners (United States, EU, Russia and V.N.), mediation bodies (AU panel, St Egidio and Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue) as well as representatives of national civil society and Parliament participated as observers, did not participate in formal discussions, but were consulted by the AU team on the main sticking points. [fn] Interviews of the crisis group, Bangui, January and March 2019.Hide the footnote Less than two weeks later, on 5 February, the government and armed groups signed the agreement, in the presence of Lacroix, Moussa Faki, Chairman of the AU Commission, and Sudanese President Omar el-Bashir. The UN then piloted the parties in Bangui; it and the AU saw it more appropriate for the parties to sign the agreement in the country, which they did on 6 February, after President Touadéra signed on behalf of the government. Russia`s motivations for strengthening its commitment during the K.O.W.-era and establishing links with armed groups are controversial. At least one Russian company acquired mineral exploration rights in the car; Since armed groups control most mining sites, some observers refer to Russian economic interests. [fn] Telephone interview with the Crisis Group, an international expert in car safety, April 2019; Clement Lobez, “Russia`s return to CAR: between multiple interests and the struggle for influence”, GRIP, 9 August 2018.De the other side, several CAR politicians and foreign officials claim that Russia is primarily motivated by geostrategic interests and is trying to use its security expertise to gain support from Africa, underper piercing European rivals, consolidate its relations with Khartoum and reaffirm its position. [fn] Crisis Group talks, political leaders, Bangui, March 2019; UN official, Bangui, January 2019; EU civil servant, Brussels, April 2019.Hide Footnote As the AU`s efforts to advance negotiations and calm the violence have stalled, Russia has significantly strengthened its commitment to the public union. In October 2017, President Touadéra accepted Moscow`s offer to make weapons and training for the country`s armed forces.
[fn] In August 2017, France requested an exemption from the UN sanctions regime on the Car for the supply of weapons seized in 2016 off the coast of Somalia in Bangui. Russia has vetoed the request for a waiver supported by other members of the Security Council.