Darfur: UN envoy holds ‘constructive’ talks with senior Sudanese figures

Darfur: UN envoy holds ‘constructive’ talks with senior Sudanese figures

Jan Eliasson
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Envoy for Darfur met the Sudanese Foreign Minister, a key former rebel and other senior figures today as he continues his mission to promote United Nations efforts to find a permanent solution to the conflict that has killed more than 200,000 people and displaced 2.5 million others.

Jan Eliasson, the former Swedish foreign minister and General Assembly president, described today’s talks in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, as fruitful and constructive, UN spokesperson Michele Montas told journalists.

Mr. Eliasson met with Foreign Minister Lam Akol and Minni Minawi, a senior presidential assistant and the chairman of a wing of the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army (SLM/A) that signed the Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA) last May. He also spoke with two presidential advisers.

Tomorrow Mr. Eliasson is scheduled to hold talks with Sudanese President Omar el-Bashir, who informed the UN last month that Khartoum accepts a three-phase plan culminating in the deployment of a hybrid UN-African Union (AU) peacekeeping force to replace the existing AU monitoring force. Such a force is expected to comprise up to 17,000 troops and 3,000 police officers.

The envoy is then scheduled to head to El Fasher, the capital of North Darfur state.

Mr. Eliasson was appointed last month to help re-energize diplomatic efforts to obtain a durable solution, based on the DPA, to a conflict that has left more than 4 million people dependent on outside aid.

Fighting erupted in 2003 between Government forces, allied militias and rebel groups seeking greater autonomy for Darfur, an arid and impoverished region roughly the size of France on Sudan’s western flank. Several rebel groups have not signed the DPA and deadly clashes have continued since the pact was struck in May.

Senior UN officials have repeatedly described Darfur as the scene of the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, and Mr. Ban has called the crisis one of his top priorities in office.

The conflict and resulting massive displacement is threatening the stability of neighbouring Chad and the Central African Republic (CAR), and this morning Security Council members heard a closed-door briefing from Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hédi Annabi about the work of a UN team examining the situation on the Chadian-Sudanese border.

The Secretary-General’s latest progress report to the Council on the situation in Darfur, covering the period from the start of October to mid-December, concluded that “the time has come to turn declarations into actions” so that the violence stopped and Darfur’s inhabitants can “live a normal life, free of fear, with hope for a better future.”

The report detailed the grim conditions on the ground, with villages being destroyed, killings and other human rights abuses continuing and rampant impunity for such acts.