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UN envoy to advocate for resumption of peace talks on Darfur in western Sudan

7 January The United Nations envoy to Sudan arrives today in N'Djamena, the capital of neighbouring Chad, to press for the resumption of peace talks on the war-torn Darfur region of western Sudan.

Tom Eric Vraalsen, the Secretary-General's Special Envoy for Humanitarian Affairs for Sudan, also wants UN agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to be granted greater access to the hundreds of thousands of fraught people in Sudan and Chad who have fled the conflict.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has described the situation in Darfur as an "invisible emergency:" a million people are estimated to be affected, with at least 600,000 internally displaced since fighting intensified last March, and another 95,000 living in makeshift camps across a long stretch of the desolate border with Chad. Bandits and militia groups have frequently raided those camps, exacerbating the already dire conditions there.

Fighting has been raging in Darfur since recent peace talks failed to renew a ceasefire between the Sudanese Government and the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA). The conflict has heated up just as Khartoum and rebel groups in the country's south, including the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM), have begun to make progress on an agreement on ending their 20-year civil war.

Mr. Vraalsen will visit the border region of Chad and Sudan and will also hold meetings with UN staff, NGOs, aid donors and officials from Chad, which is mediating the peace talks.

When Mr. Vraalsen visited Sudan last month, he noted that the humanitarian and security situation in Darfur had deteriorated, especially in the region's north and west. UNHCR staff and NGOs have begun plans to relocate many of the refugees to camps further inside Chad.

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