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Darfur: UN, African Union envoys urge all parties to press ahead for peace

Darfur: UN, African Union envoys urge all parties to press ahead for peace

Salim Ahmed Salim (L) and Jan Eliasson
Top envoys from the United Nations and the African Union chairing talks in Libya on the troubled Darfur region of Sudan today welcomed the Khartoum Government’s unilateral declaration of a cessation of hostilities and called on all parties to the conflict to make a similar commitment without delay.

“The parties cannot talk and fight at the same time, without tragic consequences to the population of Darfur,” said UN envoy Jan Eliasson and his AU counterpart, Salim Ahmed Salim, in a joint statement issued in Sirte. “It is critical that all parties do their utmost to improve the security and humanitarian conditions of the people in Darfur.”

The talks, which opened on 27 October, mark “a turning point in the long search for a lasting political solution to the crisis in Darfur,” the envoys said, calling the opening the first stage of a three-phased peace process.

The statement voices appreciation for the attendance of the Government of Sudan and of leading personalities and representatives of the movements, as well as representatives from civil society. But the envoys said they “regret that leaders of some of the movements chose not to attend the opening session and hope they will soon join the process.”

This first phase of the talks included “two lively plenary debates where representatives from the Government of Sudan, the movements, civil society, including women, regional partners, and international observers exchanged views and discussed key issues pertaining to the peace process,” said the envoys, welcoming the “constructive tone and spirit of the interventions during those discussions.”

Closed meetings were then held with the parties, regional partners, and international observers, according to the statement.

The second phase will play out over the next few weeks as the envoys continue to engage in intensive discussions with the parties on the substantive issues to be addressed in the third stage of negotiations.

Declaring that the peace process is “irreversible,” the statement says the conflict-affected Sudanese deserve no less. “We owe it to the people of Darfur to make every effort to end their suffering and allow them to live their lives in peace and dignity.”

Meanwhile, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Sudan, Ashraf Qazi, has also welcomed the peace talks in Sirte, emphasizing that peace can only be achieved through an inclusive political process supplemented by recovery and development programmes.

He told an Arab League Donor Conference in Khartoum that peace and stability in all of Sudan is crucial to resolve the humanitarian emergency in the war-ravaged and impoverished Darfur region where conflict has killed more than 200,000 people and uprooted 2.5 million more.

“Sustained peace throughout Sudan is the key to ending the humanitarian crisis in Darfur and to moving towards a more holistic goal of recovery and development throughout Sudan,” Mr. Qazi said.

Noting that the Darfur humanitarian operation remains an “enormous challenge,” he said the humanitarian community remains concerned about the suffering and insecurity in Darfur, where the population faces continued displacement and ongoing insecurity.

“A successful humanitarian response is dependent on widespread respect for the basic humanitarian principles of impartiality, humanity and independence of humanitarian actors, and I would like to take this opportunity to appeal to all parties involved in the conflict to adhere to these principles,” he said.

Ameerah Haq, the Deputy Special Representative for Sudan and UN Humanitarian Coordinator, told participants that funding to meet humanitarian needs will surge from $650 million this year to $825 million next year.

She added that aid workers are worried about the insecurity in camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs), particularly in South Darfur, as well as the proliferation of arms in camps and rising levels of violence.

Ms. Haq urged all parties to cease arming camp residents and to respect the principles of voluntary return and security camps as neutral humanitarian spaces.