The United Nations, the African Union (AU) and the Sudanese Government will participate in a technical-level meeting on Monday in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, to finalize the measures for the UN “heavy support package” to the AU peacekeeping mission in strife-torn Darfur, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today.
Monday’s meeting is not intended to re-negotiate the heavy support package, the second phase of the three-step process culminating in the eventual deployment of a hybrid UN-AU force, Mr. Ban told reporters at UN Headquarters in New York.
“As the Government of Sudan has made certain reservations on my proposals, this meeting will be used to clarify and for an exchange of views on this heavy support package,” he said following a briefing to the Security Council on his recent trip to the Middle East.
“We hope that, through these consultative meetings, we will be able to deploy hybrid forces as soon as possible.”
The technical meeting comes after a mini-summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, last week in which Mr. Ban, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, the AU and the League of Arab States agreed to re-double their efforts to resolve the Darfur conflict and to press ahead with the three-phase plan leading to the hybrid peacekeeping force.
The existing AU mission, known as AMIS, has about 7,000 troops to patrol Darfur, a region roughly the size of France where rebel groups have fought Government forces and allied Janjaweed militias since 2003.
Under the three-phase plan, the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) is currently providing AMIS with a “light support package” that includes police advisers, civilian staff and additional resources and technical support. The heavy support package to be discussed on Monday will feature several hundred UN personnel assisting AMIS. The proposed hybrid UN-AU force will be comprised of about 17,000 troops and 3,000 police officers.
The plan was introduced amid mounting international concern about Darfur, which Mr. Ban has called the worst humanitarian crisis in the world. More than 200,000 people have been killed since the conflict began, and at least 2 million others displaced from their homes. The conflict is now having spill-over effects on neighbouring Chad and the Central African Republic (CAR) as well.
Later this month in New York, Mr. Ban will hold a high-level meeting on the Darfur crisis with AU Chairman Alpha Oumar Konaré and with his Special Envoy for Darfur, Jan Eliasson, and his AU counterpart Salim Ahmed Salim.
In a related development, the Security Council was due to hear a briefing today on the work of its sanctions committee on Sudan from the committee chairman, Ambassador Marcello Spatafora of Italy.