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UN envoy on Darfur crisis begins three-day visit to Sudanese capital

UN envoy on Darfur crisis begins three-day visit to Sudanese capital

SRSG Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah
A senior United Nations envoy today began his three-day diplomatic mission to Sudan to clarify details of recent agreements aimed at ending the spiralling violence and humanitarian suffering engulfing the war-torn Darfur region.

Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah met Sudan’s State Minister for Foreign Affairs, Ali Karti, in the capital, Khartoum, and also held talks with Tayé-Brook Zerihoun, the Officer-in-Charge of the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS).

Mr. Ould-Abdallah is scheduled to meet Sudanese President Omar el-Bashir tomorrow, when he is expected to deliver a letter from Secretary-General Kofi Annan regarding the deal reached at last month’s High-Level meeting on Darfur, held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

At that meeting the UN, the African Union (AU) and Sudan agreed that the UN would provide extra support to the current AU peacekeeping mission – known as AMIS – as part of a three-phase process culminating in AMIS becoming a hybrid UN-AU mission.

The hybrid force is expected to have about 17,000 troops and 3,000 police officers, compared to the current AMIS strength of around 7,000.

Mr. Ould-Abdallah and Mr. el-Bashir are also expected to discuss the outcome of a subsequent AU Peace and Security Council meeting in Abuja, Nigeria, which endorsed the conclusions reached in Addis Ababa.

More than 200,000 people have been killed and 2 million others displaced from their homes since clashes first erupted between Government forces, allied militias and rebel groups seeking greater autonomy. The UN estimates that 4 million people now depend on humanitarian assistance.

Yesterday Mr. Annan announced that he had appointed the former General Assembly president and Swedish foreign minister Jan Eliasson as a separate envoy on the Darfur crisis, tasked with re-energizing the international political process on Darfur and raising additional funding for AMIS.

The Security Council endorsed the conclusions reached in Addis Ababa and Abuja in a presidential statement read out yesterday by Ambassador Nassir Abdulaziz al-Nasser of Qatar, which holds the rotating Council presidency.

The peace initiatives come as the situation remains tense in Darfur, an impoverished region roughly the size of France on Sudan’s western flank. UNMIS reported today that 25 vehicles, mostly belonging to AMIS or the humanitarian community, have been stolen or car-jacked in only the last two to three weeks.