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Darfur: UN, Sudan and regional groups commit to hybrid peacekeeping force

Darfur: UN, Sudan and regional groups commit to hybrid peacekeeping force

The United Nations, the Sudanese Government, the African Union (AU) and the League of Arab States (LAS) have agreed to re-double their efforts to resolve the conflict engulfing Darfur and to press ahead quickly with plans to deploy a hybrid UN-AU peacekeeping force to the war-torn region to stop the bloodshed and protect civilians.

During a meeting in Riyadh last night chaired by Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah, the participants agreed to play their part to try to accelerate political reconciliation inside Darfur, where rebel groups have been fighting Government forces and allied Janjaweed militias since 2003.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who attended the meeting with Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, AU Chairperson Alpha Oumar Konaré and LAS Secretary-General Amr Moussa, later told reporters that, “I think we made progress where there had been an impasse.”

A statement issued after the meeting committed the UN, AU, LAS and Sudan “to work together to seek an early and comprehensive settlement to the conflict and humanitarian suffering,” and commended yesterday’s separate agreement between the UN and Sudan to improve humanitarian access to Darfur.

“In parallel with the political process, they also agreed on the shared need to move expeditiously ahead with the AU-UN peacekeeping operation,” the statement added, referring to the planned hybrid force – known also as the “heavy support package” – which the Sudanese Government had backed initially but then indicated it may not support.

“Reaffirming the commitment of the Government of Sudan to the Abuja and Addis [Ababa] agreements, they agreed to hold a technical consultative briefing at the earliest possible date, to finalize the agreement on the heavy support package.”

The agreement comes amid mounting international concern at the humanitarian situation in Darfur, where more than 200,000 people have been killed and at least 2 million others forced to leave their homes. The unrest and large-scale displacement has now spilled over into neighbouring Chad and the Central African Republic (CAR).

Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes wrapped up his visit today to Chad, the second leg of his two-week tour of the region to see first hand the conditions on the ground.

Mr. Holmes, who is also Emergency Relief Coordinator, held talks in the capital, N’Djamena, with Chadian Prime Minister Nouradine Deluce Kassiré Coumakoye in which he stressed the need for the country’s Government to increase its protection of both internally displaced persons (IDPs) and the estimated 280,000 refugees from Darfur and the CAR.

Mr. Holmes voiced concern about the situation in eastern Chad in particular, noting the need for increased security in the camps for IDPs and refugees. Citing carjackings as an example, he said impunity prevails for the perpetrators of many crimes.

The Emergency Relief Coordinator then headed to Paoua in northern CAR, the scene of massive internal displacement in the past six months as armed rebels have launched attacks against villages and towns.

He visited the destroyed village of Polau, where the 360 inhabitants fled after an attack on a Sunday three months ago when the entire village was at church.