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Darfur: Ban Ki-moon says peace talks must be ‘final phase’ towards settlement

Darfur: Ban Ki-moon says peace talks must be ‘final phase’ towards settlement

Ban Ki-moon speaks to correspondents
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in New York today following an intensive, week-long visit to Sudan, Chad and Libya, vowed to maintain his focus on ending the conflict in Darfur and said the region’s leaders agree that next month’s peace talks to try to resolve the crisis there must serve as “a final phase for a final settlement.”

Mr. Ban told reporters at United Nations Headquarters that he had been encouraged by the results of his many meetings during his trip, including those with Sudanese President Omar el-Bashir, Chadian President Idriss Déby and Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi.

“My visit… was very useful and constructive in generating a momentum to bring an early resolution of the situation in Darfur,” he said, referring to the conflict between rebels, Government forces and allied Janjaweed militia that has engulfed the impoverished region of western Sudan since 2003, causing the deaths of more than 200,000 people and forcing at least 2.2 million others to flee their homes.

During the trip, Mr. Ban announced that the UN and African Union (AU) Special Envoys to Darfur, Jan Eliasson and Salim Ahmed Salim, will lead full political negotiations between the Sudanese Government and Darfur’s rebel groups on 27 October in Tripoli.

Mr. Ban and AU Chairman Alpha Oumar Konaré will also jointly chair a high-level meeting on the issue in New York on 21 September, while Chad is going to hold a preparatory meeting with Darfur’s rebel movements later this month.

“I am encouraged. We must build upon this progress to bring peace and security and prosperity to these people,” Mr. Ban said today.

The Secretary-General stressed that the region’s leaders, especially those of Sudan, “should make their utmost efforts to make this political process move smoothly, keeping the cessation of hostilities and helping the humanitarian assistance flow smoothly, without any hindrance.”

He also said that troop-contributing countries have given their full cooperation to the world body on plans for deploying a hybrid UN-AU peacekeeping force in Darfur (to be known as UNAMID), and in some cases have exceeded what is needed.

“But we are still lacking in the specialized areas, like air transportation, experts in finance and some other areas,” Mr. Ban cautioned.

UNAMID, which is set to take over from the existing AU mission in Sudan (AMIS) by the start of next year, is authorized to have some 26,000 troops and civilian police officers.

In an interview with UN Radio, Mr. Ban said that his visit to the future headquarters of UNAMID in El-Fasher, the capital of North Darfur state, indicated that the preparations are “on the right track” for a smooth transition from AMIS.

He added that he was optimistic about the deployment of a separate multidimensional presence – comprising the European Union’s military component, Chadian police and gendarmes and the UN’s civilian elements – in neighbouring eastern Chad, where there has also been unrest and large-scale displacement.