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UN envoy travels to Darfur for talks to help kick-start political process

UN envoy travels to Darfur for talks to help kick-start political process

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Envoy for Darfur heads to the war-torn region today for talks as part of United Nations efforts to find a durable solution to the conflict that has killed more than 200,000 people and displaced at least 2.5 million others since 2003.

Jan Eliasson is scheduled to meet signatories to the Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA), as well as some rebel groups that have not signed, in El Fasher, the capital of North Darfur state.

This is the last leg of a trip that has included talks with Sudanese President Omar el-Bashir and other senior Government figures in Khartoum, and with African Union (AU) officials in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Mr. Eliasson said yesterday that his talks with Mr. el-Bashir were fruitful and positive.

In November the Sudanese Government agreed in principle to hibrid UN-AU peacekeeping force in Darfur.

The force is the final phase in a three-phase plan to augment and replace the existing and under-staffed AU monitoring mission, known as AMIS. The hybrid force is expected to comprise about 17,000 troops and 3,000 police officers.

A former General Assembly president and Swedish foreign minister, Mr. Eliasson was appointed last month to re-energize diplomatic efforts for a non-military solution based on the DPA, signed last May by the Government and only some of the many rebel groups it has been fighting in Darfur.

About 4 million people now depend on outside aid and UN officials have said frequently that Darfur is the scene of the world’s gravest humanitarian crisis, with the potential to cause serious damage to neighbouring Chad and the Central African Republic (CAR) as well.

Mr. Eliasson has stressed during his trip to Sudan and Ethiopia this week that he will work closely with his AU counterpart, Salim Ahmed Salim, to try to promote a political solution.