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Darfur: UN envoy holds talks in Khartoum to prepare for peace negotiations

Darfur: UN envoy holds talks in Khartoum to prepare for peace negotiations

Jan Eliasson
The United Nations Special Envoy for Darfur held talks today with senior officials from the Sudanese Government and neighbouring countries to finalize preparations for major peace negotiations later this month that will try to end the conflict that has ravaged the region in western Sudan since 2003.

Jan Eliasson met with Sudanese presidential adviser and chief negotiator Nafie Ali Nafie in the capital, Khartoum, UN spokesperson Michele Montas told reporters.

The negotiations, which are scheduled to take place in Libya on 27 October, are designed to find a solution to the conflict between rebels, Government forces and allied Janjaweed militia groups. Mr. Eliasson and his African Union counterpart Salim Ahmed Salim will convene those talks.

Ms. Montas said Mr. Eliasson also chaired a high-level meeting today with representatives of the regional partners to the talks, including Ali Triki, Libya’s Minister for African Affairs.

During his current visit to the region Mr. Eliasson has also met the leaders of some Darfurian Arab tribes to brief them on the preparations. Earlier this week in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, Mr. Salim and Mr. Eliasson co-chaired a two-day meeting with the Joint AU-UN Mediation Support Team.

More than 200,000 people have been killed and another 2.2 million forced to flee their homes across Darfur, an arid and impoverished region, 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.

Mr. Eliasson’s meetings this week 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) reported that on Monday about 6,000 villagers and internally displaced persons (IDPs) living in and around the South Darfur town of Muhajariya fled to the north of the settlement to seek refuge at an AU mission site after an attack between a faction of the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) and tribal militia.

Other residents fled to neighbouring villages and countryside, leaving Muhajariya – which had an estimated population of 20,000 – deserted. A large number of homes and several shops in the local market were burned to the ground.

The mission said reports indicate that tens of civilians were killed or wounded or have gone missing. The UN has relocated 29 staff members of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to the state capital of Nyala.