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Darfur: UN and African Union envoys begin new round of consultations

Darfur: UN and African Union envoys begin new round of consultations

Salim Ahmed Salim (L) and Jan Eliasson
The United Nations and African Union envoys spearheading efforts to bring durable peace to war-wracked Darfur are in Sudan this week for consultations with Government officials as they try to introduce new momentum to the stalled political process.

Jan Eliasson of the UN and Salim Ahmed Salim of the AU are scheduled to meet in Khartoum with Sudan’s chief negotiator on the Darfur issue, Nafie al-Nafie; the former rebel and the current senior assistant to the President, Minni Minawi; and Foreign Minister Deng Alor, UN spokesperson Michele Montas told reporters today.

She said talks will then be held in Juba with the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), the former rebel group from the south that is part of the Government of National Unity after the 2005 peace agreement ending the long-running north-south civil war.

This week’s consultations are a follow-up to informal consultations held with regional partners and members of the international community last month, after which Mr. Eliasson and Mr. Salim stressed that repairing relations between Sudan and its neighbour Chad are a prerequisite to resolving the crisis engulfing Darfur.

The porous border between Darfur and Chad has been the scene of tensions in recent months as Darfurians fleeing attacks on their villages cross into eastern Chad and Chadian rebels fighting the Government cross into Sudan.

Ms. Montas said Mr. Eliasson and Mr. Salim will hold consultations from 15 to 20 April with those movements in Darfur that have not signed previous key peace accords and with representatives of civil society groups in the impoverished and arid region.

More than 200,000 people have been killed and almost 2.5 million others displaced from their homes in the five years since rebels began fighting Government forces and allied militiamen known as the Janjaweed.

The UN and AU have deployed a hybrid peacekeeping mission known as UNAMID to try to quell the violence and the humanitarian suffering but so far less than 10,000 personnel – out of the 26,000 expected at full deployment – are in place.

UNAMID chief Rodolphe Adada also held talks this week with Mr. Alor and other senior Sudanese Government officials about the situation in Darfur, with their meeting focusing on enhancing security and protection of the civilian population, and on the status of deployment of UNAMID troops. Egyptian and Ethiopian personnel are slated to be deployed as part of the mission over the next two months.