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Darfur: UN envoy heads to Sudan for talks with Government, rebels and others

Darfur: UN envoy heads to Sudan for talks with Government, rebels and others

Jan Eliasson (R) speak to reporters
The Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Darfur heads to Sudan and neighbouring Ethiopia tonight for almost a week of talks and meetings with officials from the Sudanese Government, the African Union (AU) and other groups to discuss how to find a lasting solution to the conflict that has left at least 200,000 people dead and displaced more than 2 million others.

Jan Eliasson, the former General Assembly president and Swedish foreign minister, will begin his trip at AU headquarters in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, where he is scheduled to have two days of meetings with AU Commission Chairperson Alpha Oumar Konaré, other senior Union officials and members of the Ethiopian Government.

Mr. Eliasson will then travel to Sudan for meetings with the Government of National Unity and “all other relevant parties,” according to a statement released by the spokesperson for Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon following a series of consultations this week.

Mr. Eliasson and Mr. Ban held in-depth discussions today with Salim Ahmed Salim, AU Special Envoy for Darfur, and Mr. Eliasson has also spoken with representatives of Security Council permanent members, other key Member States, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) conducting humanitarian work in Darfur.

Speaking to reporters today before his departure, Mr. Eliasson said the purpose of his trip was to maintain the international political momentum so that the parties to the conflict realize that “now is the time to go to the political road” and not pursue a military solution.

Fighting erupted in 2003 between Government forces, allied militias and rebel groups seeking greater autonomy in Darfur, a remote and impoverished region roughly the size of France on Sudan’s western flank.

The situation has deteriorated since then, despite last May’s signing of the Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA) by the Government and some of the rebel groups, and senior officials have described Darfur as home of the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. More than 4 million people now depend on outside aid.

Mr. Eliasson said: “We should try to now instil a sense of importance of reducing the level of violence so that by that we can create conditions for a political process which is so necessary. This conflict has gone on far too long; the Sudanese people have suffered very, very much.”

Late last month the Sudanese Government informed the UN that it had agreed to a three-phase process culminating in the deployment of a hybrid UN-AU peacekeeping force to replace the existing AU monitoring force known as AMIS. The new force is expected to comprise about 17,000 troops and 3,000 police officers.

Mr. Ban will attend a separate AU summit at the end of this month in Addis Ababa to discuss Darfur, including the hybrid force and the conflict’s potential spill-over into neighbouring Chad and the Central African Republic (CAR). Mr. Eliasson said today that the crisis in Darfur increasingly has a regional dimension.

The Secretary-General’s report on the recent UN technical assessment mission to those two countries to study the potential threat to regional peace and security posed by the Darfur crisis found that more than 2.3 million people are at risk from cross-border activities and movements of refugees.

The Security Council has scheduled consultations next Wednesday to consider the report’s recommendations, UN spokesperson Michele Montas told journalists.