Darfur parties agree violence will not solve conflict, UN and African envoys say
There is general agreement that violence will never resolve the conflict raging in Darfur, envoys from the United Nations and African Union told reporters in Khartoum today following talks in the vast western region of Sudan.
“There is an acknowledgment that there is simply no military solution to the Darfur crisis,” said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Envoy, Jan Eliasson. “That’s a starting point for the way forward and that is the political road.”
Mr. Eliasson and African Union (AU) Special Envoy for Darfur Salim Ahmed Salim have held meetings in Darfur in recent days, including with field commanders of non-signatories to last year’s Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA), internally displaced persons (IDPs), and representatives of the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) as well as a number of tribal chiefs.
Mr. Eliasson voiced hope that talks could soon help reduce the bloodshed. “We have expectations that once this political process starts – and it starts, I hope, now – there should and could be visible signs of a reduction in violence and improvement of the situation on the ground.”
The diplomatic push must be reflected in the lives of Darfur’s people, he said. “We want to connect the political talks we are embarking on with real progress on the ground.”
Describing the grim conditions in the region, where more than 200,000 people have been killed and 2 million others displaced from their homes, Mr. Eliasson said relief personnel were stretched beyond the limit. “The humanitarian workers are exhausted. We heard from them clear expressions of fatigue, of frustration at the situation.”
Mr. Eliasson placed responsibility with ending the conflict in the hands of those involved. “This is a Sudanese problem and in the end it will have to be the people of Sudan and their representatives that will have to solve it,” he said.
At the same time, he pledged international support. “We will do our utmost to bring this process about and we hope also that all actors, those who follow these developments very closely, those who are engaged in the region will cooperate with us.”
The UN envoy issued a stern warning against inaction. “A missed opportunity, again on Darfur – not building on what we have achieved and not taking the chance now to finally get this conflict behind us – will be a serious mistake,” he said.
Mr. Salim said that in response to reservations about – and even opposition to – the DPA, the envoys are examining “how to overcome some of those difficulties, in order to propel the peace process forward.”
To create an environment conducive to negotiations, he said, it is necessary to reduce violence and preferably achieve a cessation of hostilities.
“We have made this point to all concerned, and I would like to say that thus far we have been encouraged by the initial reaction of everybody we met on this issue – the importance of de-escalation of violence - and also by the assurances by all the other parties that they will do the utmost to facilitate the operations of the humanitarian organizations.”
In talks, the factions raised concerns about security and stability, compensation, refugees and IDPs, and development and reconstruction, he added.