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Darfur: UN, African Union envoys meet with regional partners to peace process

5 December 2007 The United Nations and African Union Special Envoys for Darfur have met with the regional partners to the peace process in the war-torn Sudanese region to assess the progress so far and try to forge agreement on the way forward.

Jan Eliasson and Salim Ahmed Salim held talks in the Egyptian town of Sharm el-Sheikh yesterday with the foreign ministers of Chad, Egypt and Libya and senior representatives of the Eritrean President, UN spokesperson Marie Okabe told reporters.

They discussed the political and security situation inside Darfur, the progress of efforts to unify the region’s many movements and possible options for the next phase of the peace process.

Ms. Okabe said participants agreed that the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), the former rebel group from southern Sudan, deserves commendation for its efforts to facilitate the unification of the Darfur movements ahead of scheduled direct talks between the rebels and the Government.

The movements, which have splintered since the conflict began from two or three large groups into as many as 16 separate factions, have also been encouraged to continue with their work to nominate a common negotiating team and process.

In addition, Mr. Eliasson and Mr. Salim and the regional partners discussed the surge in fighting in eastern Chad during the past fortnight and its impact on both the Darfur conflict and Chadian-Sudanese relations.

Yesterday’s meeting was the latest step in the efforts of the UN and AU to broker a comprehensive peace accord to quell the violence and humanitarian suffering in Darfur, where more than 200,000 people have been killed and at least 2.2 million others displaced since rebels began fighting Government forces and allied militia known as the Janjaweed in 2003.

The UN and AU are deploying a hybrid peacekeeping mission (known as UNAMID) to Darfur at the start of next year to take over from the existing but under-resourced AU mission (AMIS), but objections and obstacles raised by the Sudanese Government and a lack of offers for critical force units have left the deployment in jeopardy, senior UN officials warned last week.

Today Mr. Eliasson arrived in Khartoum, the Sudanese capital, for a week-long visit around the country in which he is scheduled to meet senior Government officials, members of the SPLM in the southern town of Juba, and representatives of the Darfurian movements and civil society groups.

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