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Sudanese-Chadian relations vital to ending Darfur conflict, says UN envoy

Sudanese-Chadian relations vital to ending Darfur conflict, says UN envoy

Salim Ahmed Salim (L) and Jan Eliasson
Improving the relationship between Sudan and Chad is crucial to achieving a durable solution to the conflict wracking Darfur, the United Nations and African Union envoys said today after wrapping up two days of consultations in Geneva with key members of the international community.

Jan Eliasson of the UN and Salim Ahmed Salim of the AU said they had received strong support from the participants at the Geneva consultations – which included the Security Council’s permanent members, its African members, the European Union and neighbours of Sudan – for renewed efforts to move the political process forward.

“The first step is, of course, to do whatever we can – and particularly [for] the participants in this meeting, whatever they can – to facilitate the relationship between Chad and Sudan, which is basic for peace in Darfur,” Mr. Eliasson told a press briefing after the meeting.

Last week the presidents of Chad and Sudan signed an agreement regarding reconciliation and the normalizing of bilateral relations amid mounting concern about the violence and instability along their common border.

Tensions have been high in the region in recent weeks as about 10,000 sought refuge in eastern Chad following a series of deadly air and land attacks by Sudanese Government forces and allied militiamen on towns and villages in West Darfur, and Chadian rebels fought the forces of their Government.

Mr. Eliasson said the problems between Chad and Sudan, the growing unrest in the camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Darfur, inter-tribal clashes and the continuing fragmentation of the region’s rebel movements had combined to hurt efforts to start substantive peace talks between the Government and the movements.

The splintering of the movements is hindering the formation of a single negotiating team for any serious talks, Mr. Eliasson told UN Radio in a separate interview.

“We hope very much that they will soon come to conclusions on their positions for the talks and decide on a negotiation team… But it seems like they still have a long way to go.”

The Special Envoy stressed that there can be no military solution to the Darfur conflict, which has killed more than 200,000 people and displaced at least 2.2 million others since 2003, when rebels began fighting Government forces and allied militia.

“And if there is no military solution, there is only a political solution. And for a political solution to come about, we have to sit down and talk. And we have to sit down and talk about power-sharing, wealth-sharing and security. And, of course, the right of return – for people to come back to their own homes. And to start talking about the recovery and development. And the hope of a better future for the people of Darfur.”

He urged the countries and organizations participating in the two days of consultations this week to exert any influence they have over either the Government or the movements.

Mr. Eliasson added that the concerned countries had agreed on the need for a multi-track approach to diplomatic efforts to end the crisis, including shuttle diplomacy and indirect negotiations.