Sudan backs deployment of hybrid peacekeeping force in Darfur – UN
The Sudanese Government remains committed to the deployment of a hybrid United Nations-African Union (AU) peacekeeping force in Sudan’s war-torn Darfur region, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today as his Special Envoy continued his mission to find a durable solution to the conflict that has caused massive humanitarian suffering.
The envoy Jan Eliasson conducted what he described as fruitful and substantive talks with Sudanese President Omar el-Bashir in the capital, Khartoum.
The meeting follows talks earlier this week with Sudanese Foreign Minister Lam Akol, the former rebel leader Minni Minawi and other key Government officials, as well as with AU officials at its headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Tomorrow the UN envoy heads to Darfur itself.
More than 200,000 people have been killed and at least 2.5 million others displaced since 2003 because of fighting across Darfur – an arid and impoverished region on Sudan’s western flank – between Government forces, allied militias and rebel groups seeking greater autonomy.
Mr. Eliasson told reporters today after his meeting with Mr. el-Bashir that Sudanese officials, including the President, had agreed with him that the conflict could only have a political solution and not a military one.
Last month Mr. el-Bashir informed the UN that Sudan supported the three-phase plan, agreed to at summits in Addis Ababa and Abuja in November, which culminates in the hybrid force replacing the existing and under-staffed AU monitoring mission known as AMIS. The new force is expected to have about 17,000 troops and 3,000 police officers.
During a press conference today at UN Headquarters in New York, Mr. Ban said he had been encouraged by what he heard of Mr. Eliasson’s meetings this week and reiterated plans to join Mr. Eliasson at an AU summit on the issue in Addis Ababa at the end of the month.
Asked about recent press reports that Mr. el-Bashir had now rejected the deployment of UN peacekeepers in Darfur, Mr. Ban said he had been told by Mr. Eliasson that the President assured him of his Government’s “very strong cooperation and assistance” with both the UN and the AU.
“There was an agreement in Addis Ababa and Abuja. We are committed to implementing this agreement,” Mr. Ban said.
Under the first phase of the agreement, the UN is providing a $21 million “light support package” to AMIS, which includes the provision of equipment as well as military advisers, police officers and civilian staff from the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) – a separate peacekeeping operation mandated to oversee a peace pact ending the 21-year war in the country’s south.
UNMIS handed over the first batch of equipment and supplies to AMIS today, with the remainder expected to be delivered in the coming weeks. The first batch included generators, tents, cookers, sleeping bags, mosquito nets, ground positioning systems (GPS) and night-vision goggles. Some 17 military advisers and 19 police officers are already in Darfur.
The details of the second “heavy support” phase, which includes the provision of staff and equipment, are still being finalized.