Visit to Darfur region to mark centrepiece of Annan's three-week official trip

24 June 2004
Secretary-General Kofi Annan

Secretary-General Kofi Annan begins a three-week official trip to the Middle East, Africa, Asia and Europe this weekend, highlighted by a visit to the Darfur region of Sudan - which has been described by senior United Nations officials recently as the scene of the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

Mr. Annan heads first to Qatar, where he will hold talks with the country's Emir, Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, UN spokesman Fred Eckhard announced today.

On Wednesday, the Secretary-General is scheduled to fly to Sudan for a three-day leg focusing on the troubles in Darfur. After holding official meetings in Khartoum, he will visit a camp for internally displaced people (IDPs) in Darfur and then travel to neighbouring Chad, where he will inspect a refugee camp and hold talks with Chadian President Idriss Deby and other senior officials.

UN agencies estimate that more than 1 million people have become internally displaced and at least 150,000 others live as refugees since fighting broke out in Darfur early last year between the Government and two rebel groups.

A UN human rights report released last month found that Sudanese Government forces and Arab Janjaweed militias - which have been recruited and armed by Khartoum - have carried out massive human rights violations against the black African population.

Meanwhile, talks are taking place in Kenya to reach a comprehensive peace agreement that would end the 21-year civil war in southern Sudan between the Government and a separate rebel group.

On returning to Khartoum next Friday, Mr. Annan will have a meeting on these issues with Sudanese President Omer Al Bashir.

The Secretary-General is then due to fly to Asmara, the Eritrean capital, to visit the headquarters of the UN Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) and meet Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki.

Later on Saturday Mr. Annan will travel to Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital, to address the opening of the African Union Summit and hold bilateral meetings with national leaders.

On 7 July the Secretary-General heads to Nairobi in Kenya to visit the UN's headquarters there and meet negotiators in the peace talks for southern Sudan.

After Kenya, Mr. Annan heads to Bangkok, Thailand, to attend the 15th International AIDS Conference and open the second Asia-Pacific Ministerial Meeting on HIV/AIDS.

The Secretary-General will also meet Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej, Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai.

The final stop of his journey will be in Vienna, where he will join the meeting on 13 July of his High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change. He returns to New York on 17 July.


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