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Sudan: UN and African Union envoys to visit Darfur to revive peace process

Sudan: UN and African Union envoys to visit Darfur to revive peace process

The Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Darfur and his African Union (AU) counterpart will conduct a joint mission to Sudan next week as part of their efforts to revive the stalled peace process in the war-torn region.

Jan Eliasson and the AU’s Salim Ahmed Salim will travel on Monday to the capital, Khartoum, and to Darfur itself for talks with the Government and with representatives of those rebel groups that did not sign the Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA) in May last year.

The UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) announced the six-day mission today as Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the Security Council that obtaining a cessation of hostilities is urgent because unacceptable delays are preventing humanitarian help from reaching millions of victims.

In an address to a closed-door meeting following his recent trip to Africa, where he discussed Darfur with AU leaders at their summit in Addis Ababa, Mr. Ban warned Council members that slow progress on this issue cannot be tolerated.

“No more time can be lost. The people of Darfur have waited for far too long,” said UN spokesperson Michele Montas, quoting from Mr. Ban’s remarks.

Speaking later to reporters, the Secretary-General said he discussed with the Council his “very useful and constructive” recent meeting with Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, when they talked about plans for a hybrid UN-AU peacekeeping force in Darfur.

Mr. Ban said he expects a “positive and clear” response soon from Mr. Bashir to a letter he sent last month outlining the details of the hybrid force, its command structure and funding.

More than 200,000 people have been killed and 2 million others displaced since 2003 because of fighting between Government forces, allied militias and rebel groups seeking greater autonomy.

Many rebel groups did not sign the DPA last year, and fighting has raged on, with almost 4 million people now dependent on humanitarian aid, and fears that the conflict could spill into neighbouring Chad and the Central African Republic (CAR).

Mr. Eliasson travelled to Sudan, including Darfur, last month, where he urged the parties to stop the violence to help pave the way for a political settlement to the conflict.

A former General Assembly president and Swedish foreign minister, Mr. Eliasson was appointed in December to re-energize diplomatic efforts towards achieving a non-military solution based on the DPA.

Meanwhile, UNMIS reports that a fresh round of fighting between two Arab tribes in four villages in North Darfur appears to have ended, with no information on casualties from the weekend clashes.

On Saturday, armed men ambushed two trucks carrying UN supplies from Nyala, the provincial capital of South Darfur, to the West Darfur town of Garsilla. The drivers were robbed of cash and personal belongings but otherwise unharmed.