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Ban Ki-moon unveils trust fund to back diplomatic efforts to end Darfur conflict

Ban Ki-moon unveils trust fund to back diplomatic efforts to end Darfur conflict

Ban Ki-moon (R) and Alpha Oumar Konare
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today announced the creation of a trust fund to support next month’s Darfur peace talks after chairing a high-level meeting in which more than two dozen countries and regional groups pledged their support for the joint road map of the United Nations and African Union to end the conflict in the war-wracked Sudanese region.

Today’s meeting at UN Headquarters in New York was “very constructive [and] useful… We will continue to build upon what we have reaffirmed” in the lead-up to the peace talks between the Sudanese Government and Darfur’s many rebel groups on 27 October in Libya, Mr. Ban told journalists tonight.

Mr. Ban, who co-chaired the high-level meeting with AU Commission Chairperson Alpha Oumar Konaré, said the trust fund would help facilitate the diplomatic efforts to resolve the conflict, which has led to the deaths of more than 200,000 people since 2003.

He also said he would soon appoint a special negotiator to spearhead efforts to bring the many parties to the talks in Libya, which will be conducted under the auspices of the UN and AU envoys for Darfur, Jan Eliasson and Salim Ahmed Salim. Those talks must be the “final phase for a final settlement” of the Darfur conflict.

A joint AU-UN communiqué described the meeting as “a powerful illustration of the international community’s commitment to work with the Sudanese to achieve peace in Darfur.”

Representatives from 26 States, including Sudan, the permanent members of the Security Council, key nations from the region and members of the AU Peace and Security Council, as well as officials from the European Union and the League of Arab States, attended today’s meeting.

Mr. Ban said there was unanimous support for the UN-AU three-track approach: securing a political solution; deploying the hybrid UN-AU peacekeeping force (to be known as UNAMID); and providing humanitarian and recovery assistance to civilians.

Some 4 million Darfurians now depend on humanitarian aid because of the fighting between rebels, Government forces and allied Janjaweed militia, which has displaced at least 2.2 million people from their homes and sometimes spilled into neighbouring Chad and the Central African Republic.

At full deployment UNAMID will have an estimated 26,000 troops and police officers, making it the largest peacekeeping operation in the world.

The Secretary-General said participants today stressed the importance of all parties taking part in the 27 October talks so that they are as “inclusive and decisive” as possible. Darfur’s rebel groups have become increasingly splintered since the conflict began.

In response to questions, Mr. Ban and Mr. Konaré reiterated their commitment to ensuring that UNAMID, which is slated to take over from the existing AU Mission in Sudan (AMIS) at the start of next year, be deployed as quickly as possible.

Emphasizing the force will retain its predominantly African character, they noted that some specialist units will be provided by non-African countries and they called on all Member States to make pledges so that force generation and deployment benchmarks can be met.

The communiqué voiced concern about the continuing violence in Darfur, an arid and impoverished region in the remote west of Sudan, and the recent deterioration in the humanitarian situation.

The AU and the UN “called on all parties to exercise full restraint, abide by previous commitments, and cease all hostilities in the lead-up to political negotiations.”

It also noted that the implementation of the January 2005 comprehensive peace agreement ending the separate north-south civil war must not be neglected.