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Ban Ki-moon welcomes Sudanese acceptance of UN help to African mission in Darfur

Ban Ki-moon welcomes Sudanese acceptance of UN help to African mission in Darfur

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the Security Council today welcomed Sudan’s announcement confirming that it accepts the entire “heavy support package” of troops, police officers, civilian staff and equipment which the United Nations will provide to the African Union (AU) peacekeeping mission in the violence-wracked Darfur region.

Mr. Ban “is encouraged by this development and intends to move expeditiously with the deployment,” according to a statement issued by his spokesperson in New York after the Secretary-General received a letter from the Sudanese Government confirming its agreement.

The statement said Mr. Ban will work closely with the AU and the Government to implement the deployment, which is the second phase of a three-step plan that is supposed to culminate in a hybrid UN-AU peacekeeping force of approximately 17,000 troops and 3,000 police officers across Darfur.

He expects Sudan “to urgently provide the land and other facilities necessary for the deployment of the heavy support package, including permission to explore for water and meet all operational requirements,” the statement added.

In its own statement to the press, the Security Council also welcomed the Sudanese decision, adding it would write to Mr. Ban to allow him to request funding from the General Assembly for the package.

The statement, read out by Ambassador Karen Pierce of the United Kingdom, which holds the rotating Council presidency this month, added that the Sudanese Government of National Unity must now facilitate the package’s immediate deployment.

Aside from the troops, police officers and civilian staff, the package includes the provision by the UN of helicopter gunships as well as logistical support to the overstretched AU mission, known as AMIS.

Mr. Ban’s spokesperson Michele Montas told reporters, in response to a question, that the helicopters had been the outstanding component in the heavy support package until today’s acceptance letter from Khartoum.

Today’s statements from the Council President and Mr. Ban’s spokesperson emphasized their support for current international efforts, including via UN and AU envoys, to find a political solution to the Darfur conflict.

Mr. Ban’s Special Envoy for Darfur Jan Eliasson said that he and his AU counterpart, Salim Ahmed Salim, would now step up efforts to find a non-military solution, adding that the presence of a strong peacekeeping force was essential to stabilizing the region.

Today Mr. Ban held talks with AU Chairman Alpha Oumar Konaré on the latest political, humanitarian and security developments in Darfur before they jointly met Council members for informal discussions.

Speaking to reporters after that meeting, Mr. Ban thanked the efforts of many world leaders, including the leaders of Saudi Arabia, the United States, China and South Africa, as well as Mr. Konaré and the head of the League of Arab States.

“This is a very positive sign,” he said of the Sudanese acceptance letter. “The people in Darfur have suffered too much and too long.”

Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Affairs Jean-Marie Guéhenno said the heavy support package “is not the robust force that Darfur needs. It’s a support package to lay the ground for a future robust force. It’s a transition to a hybrid mission – that’s how we see it.”

More than 200,000 people have been killed and 2 million others displaced from their homes in the vast region in western Sudan since 2003, when Government forces and allied Janjaweed militias began fighting with rebel groups who had taken up arms, largely in protest at the distribution of resources.

The clashes have led to the destruction of entire villages, and fears are increasing that the conflict might also engulf neighbouring eastern Chad and the Central African Republic (CAR).

The UN is already providing a “light support package” to AMIS which includes police advisers, civilian staff, technical support and other resources.