Peace agreement for Sudan may be signed as soon as year end, UN envoy says

29 September 2003
Special Envoy Tom Vraalsen briefs press

The United Nations top humanitarian envoy for Sudan said today he was confident there will be peace in the Sudan, with an agreement signed perhaps as soon as the end of the year.

"I am more confident than ever that there will be an agreement, that we will have a peace agreement in Sudan," Ambassador Tom Eric Vraalsen, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's Special Envoy for Humanitarian Needs for the country, told a press briefing on his recent two-week trip to the Sudan - the latest in five years of peace and humanitarian efforts there.

Mr. Vraalsen said that he had met with senior officials of the Sudanese Government, the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) and representatives of the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army (SLM/A), some of whom were engaged in direct talks for the first time in 20 years. He said he was "very impressed" that they had told him they were "committed to stay engaged as long as it takes to bring talks to a successful end, that is to say until they have a comprehensive peace agreement."

The talks and the commitment, he said, were "a major breakthrough event for the people of the country, but is also major event for regional stabilization in that part of the world."

Sudanese negotiators were scheduled to meet again in October, he said, but he thought the talks would slow down again during Ramadan and the Christmas season, so "a comprehensive agreement probably will not be signed until towards the end of the year."

But "I am confident that it can be done and it will be done," he added.

Mr. Vraalsen said that some two million people have been killed in the civil wars in Sudan and four million persons internally displaced - the largest such number in the world.

He said the parties had both called for a United Nations role in any peace arrangements and that the top UN priority, after monitoring the peace, would be the return of internal and external refugees.

In a statement prepared for the briefing, Mr. Vraalsen urged donors to support UN activities in the country and said that only 34 per cent of last year's $262.9 million UN appeal for assistance has been funded. The UN, repositioning for peace in Sudan, was also looking for an additional $165.1 million in aid, he said.


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