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Darfur: Ban Ki-Moon expected to meet African Union envoy later this week

Darfur: Ban Ki-Moon expected to meet African Union envoy later this week

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today he may hold a meeting as early as Friday with envoys from the United Nations and the African Union (AU) about the continuing humanitarian and security crisis in the Sudanese region of Darfur.

Mr. Ban spoke with his Special Envoy on the issue, the former General Assembly president and Swedish foreign minister Jan Eliasson, at UN Headquarters in New York this morning to discuss Mr. Eliasson’s work so far and his plans for the weeks and months ahead.

Mr. Eliasson – who was appointed last month – has been tasked with working the diplomatic channels, especially outside Sudan, and encouraging governments in their home capitals to remain engaged on this issue.

A spokesperson for Mr. Ban said the Secretary-General suggested a meeting be held with Mr. Eliasson and the AU Special Envoy for the Darfur conflict, Salim Ahmed Salim, possibly as soon as Friday.

Mr. Ban has already spoken by telephone with Mr. Salim and with AU Commission President Alpha Oumar Konaré since taking office on Monday, and he told reporters yesterday that resolving the crisis in Darfur would be one of his top priorities.

More than 200,000 people have been killed and 2 million others displaced from their homes since 2003 when clashes erupted in Darfur between Government forces, allied militias and rebel groups seeking greater autonomy. The UN estimates that 4 million people now depend on humanitarian assistance.

Last month the Sudanese Government announced it had agreed to a three-phased approach leading to the deployment of a hybrid UN-AU peacekeeping force in Darfur, a remote and impoverished region on Sudan’s western flank. The eventual force is expected to comprise about 17,000 troops and 3,000 police officers.