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Darfur: UN envoy warns surge in violence must end ahead of peace talks

11 October 2007 The United Nations Special Envoy to Darfur today called for an end to the “vicious cycle of violence” engulfing the war-torn Sudanese region ahead of major peace talks later this month, warning that any delay to the negotiations between the Government and the rebels would only lead to further bloodshed.

After a week of meetings with key regional figures, Jan Eliasson told a press conference in Khartoum that the talks – which he is co-convening with his African Union counterpart Salim Ahmed Salim – will start as scheduled on 27 October in neighbouring Libya.

But he stressed the need for all sides to refrain from violence to ensure there is an environment conducive to talks set up to try to end the conflict that has raged across Darfur, an arid and impoverished region in western Sudan, since 2003.

More than 200,000 people have been killed and at least 2.2 million others forced to flee their homes because of fighting between the rebels, Government forces and allied militia known as the Janjaweed.

In recent weeks there has been a spike in violence in Darfur, particularly in South Darfur state, and Mr. Eliasson voiced deep concern at the security situation and the recent escalation of Sudanese military activity.

He said the mediation process was staying on course ahead of the Libya talks, adding that any delay to those talks would be tragic and cause more bloodshed.

The envoy also expressed hope that the talks’ first outcome would be to produce a formal declaration of a cessation of hostilities once the political negotiations are under way.

Invitations to rebel groups and civil society representatives to participate in the talks are expected to be issued in the next few days, Mr. Eliasson said.

This week, Mr. Eliasson has met with senior Sudanese Government officials and representatives of Chad, Egypt, Eritrea and Libya, and today he characterized the meetings as positive and successful.

Also speaking at the press conference, the AU’s Sam Ibok, who is a senior adviser to Mr. Salim, said the Libya talks will be as inclusive as possible to ensure that there is broad-based public support of the peace process.

He added that no party will be allowed to “shoot its way to the talks,” stressing that violence must end before the negotiations begin.

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