Darfur UN envoy begins visit to region for fresh talks

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The United Nations envoy tasked with re-energizing the peace process in Darfur heads to the violence-wracked Sudanese region today for talks with local authorities, tribal leaders, civil society groups, Arab nomads and internally displaced persons (IDPs). Jan Eliasson, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Darfur, travels first to El Geneina, the capital of West Darfur state, before heading later today to Nyala, the capital of South Darfur state, where he is expected to stay overnight. Later tomorrow Mr. Eliasson is scheduled to visit El Fasher, the capital of North Darfur state and the planned headquarters of UNAMID, the newly established hybrid UN-African Union peacekeeping force in Darfur. UNAMID has an initial mandate of 12 months and will incorporate the existing AU Mission in Sudan (AMIS), which has been deployed across Darfur since 2004. It will become the world’s largest peacekeeping force, with almost 26,000 troops and police officers when it reaches full deployment, as well as nearly 5,000 civilian staff. By October, UNAMID is scheduled to have its management, command and control structures in place, and then by the end of the year it is expected to be ready to take over operations from AMIS. Yesterday in Khartoum, Mr. Eliasson met the Sudanese presidential adviser Nafie Ali Nafie and the Under-Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Mutrif Siddiq, to brief them on the weekend “pre-negotiation” talks in Arusha, Tanzania, with some of Darfur’s rebels. Those talks ended with a pledge from the rebels reaffirming their commitment to the so-called Road-Map outlined by Mr. Eliasson and his AU counterpart, Salim Ahmed Salim, to end the Darfur conflict. The representatives of the rebel movements attending the Arusha meeting agreed to present a common platform on the sharing of power and wealth, security arrangements, land and humanitarian issues, and they also recommended that final talks towards a political solution to the conflict be held in two or three months’ time. The last stop on Mr. Eliasson’s current trip will be N’Djamena, the capital of neighbouring Chad, where he is set to meet with that country’s President Idriss Deby on Friday. Fighting has engulfed Darfur, an arid and impoverished region on Sudan’s western flank, since 2003, when local rebels took up arms against the Government, which then responded with the support of notorious militia known as the Janjaweed. More than 200,000 people have been killed and at least 2 million others have been displaced. 8 August 2007The United Nations envoy tasked with re-energizing the peace process in Darfur heads to the violence-wracked Sudanese region today for talks with local authorities, tribal leaders, civil society groups, Arab nomads and internally displaced persons (IDPs).

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