UN envoy concludes visit to Darfur with plea for end to violence
Jan Eliasson met Sudanese Government representatives on Friday in El Fasher, the capital of North Darfur state, along with members of two rebel groups that did not sign the Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA) last May – the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and one wing of the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army (SLM/A).
This was the last leg of a week-long trip that has included talks with Sudanese President Omar el-Bashir, other senior Government figures and former rebels – including Minni Minawi of the SLM/A – in Khartoum, and with African Union (AU) officials in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Mr. Eliasson said he stressed to the non-signatories that a reduction in violence is essential to creating the kind of atmosphere that is conducive to reaching a durable political settlement in Darfur, where more than 200,000 people have been killed and at least 2 million others displaced.
Fighting erupted in 2003 between Government forces, allied militias and rebel groups seeking greater autonomy, and about 4 million people now depend on outside aid. UN officials have said frequently that Darfur is the scene of the world’s gravest humanitarian crisis, and Mr. Ban said earlier this month that resolving the conflict would be one of the priorities of his time in office.
A former General Assembly president and Swedish foreign minister, Mr. Eliasson was appointed last month to re-energize diplomatic efforts towards achieving a non-military solution based on the DPA, which was signed by the Government and only some of Darfur’s rebel groups.
In November the Sudanese Government agreed in principle to a three-phase plan culminating in the deployment of a hybrid UN-AU peacekeeping force in Darfur to replace the existing and under-staffed AU monitoring mission known as AMIS. The new hybrid force is expected to comprise about 17,000 troops and 3,000 police officers.