Darfur: UN envoy meets Sudanese Government officials ahead of peace talks

Darfur: UN envoy meets Sudanese Government officials ahead of peace talks

The United Nations Special Envoy for Darfur is in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, for talks with Government officials, civil society groups and other players ahead of major peace negotiations later this month that will try to end the conflict that has torn apart the impoverished region.

Jan Eliasson, who will convene those negotiations with his African Union counterpart, Salim Ahmed Salim, returned to Khartoum for the meetings this week, UN spokesperson Michele Montas told reporters in New York today.

The negotiations, which are scheduled to take place in neighbouring Libya on 27 October, are designed to find a solution to the conflict between rebels, Government forces and allied Janjaweed militia groups.

More than 200,000 people have been killed and another 2.2 million forced to flee their homes because of fighting that has raged since 2003. Some 4 million Darfurians now depend on humanitarian aid.

Earlier this year the Security Council authorized the creation of a hybrid UN-AU peacekeeping force (known as UNAMID) to try to quell the violence. The operation is scheduled to take over from the existing AU mission by the start of next year.

This week’s talks in Khartoum are taking place amid mounting concern from senior UN officials about the recent spike in violence in Darfur, particularly in South Darfur state.

The UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) said it has received reports that the Minni Minawi faction of the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) clashed yesterday around the South Darfur town of Muhajariya with forces suspected to be tribal militia. There is no word so far on the number of casualties.