Ban calls for ‘urgent deployment’ of Darfur force

United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon held crunch talks on Monday with Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir where he urged him to cooperate with the deployment of a joint United Nations and African Union force for strife-torn Darfur.

In 90 minutes of talks with Bashir, which followed a public dressing down at the AU summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Ban detected a new level of cooperation after previous frustration at perceived foot-dragging by Khartoum.

Ban had earlier used his speech at the summit to urge African leaders to work with the world body to end the bloodshed in Darfur by working towards the urgent deployment of a joint force in the strife-torn Sudanese region.

Ban stressed in his speech that ”the partnership between the AU and the UN is of central importance” to ending the conflict.

”Together we must work to end the violence and scorched-earth policies adopted by various parties, including militias, as well as the bombings that are still a terrifying feature of life in Darfur,” he said.

Ban then began his encounter with Bashir where he reached some degree of accommodation with the Sudanese leader.

”We agreed to accelerate the joint AU-UN efforts for the political process and cooperation for [the] peacekeeping mission” based on previous agreements which the UN feels have not been followed up by Khartoum, he told reporters after the talks.

Bashir had ”reiterated his strong commitment to implementing these agreements,” Ban added.

The UN chief also said Bashir had agreed that UN and AU envoys would travel to Khartoum and Darfur in the coming weeks and even invited Ban to visit at an unspecified time.

He was also looking forward to a ”prompt and positive answer” to a recent request for the implementation of the second phase of a peace plan, which involves sending troops in advance of a larger deployment of the so-called hybrid force.

Early Monday, the UN chief huddled with AU commission chairperson Alpha Oumar Konare to discuss the three-phase Darfur settlement plan expected to culminate in the deployment of a robust UN-AU force.

The UN chief also paid tribute to ill-equipped AU peacekeepers who have failed to halt the Darfur conflict, which has resulted in an estimated 200 000 deaths and nearly 2,5-million people displaced since 2003, according to UN figures disputed by Khartoum.

”But the toll of the crisis remains unacceptable,” Ban said in his speech.

”It is holding back the potential of Sudan as a whole to develop as a peaceful, prosperous and democratic nation, and that in turn could hold back the future of the entire sub-region,” he said.

”We must address the regional dimension of the crisis,” he said referring to the spill over of the Darfur conflict into neighbouring Chad and the Central African Republic.

He underscored the need to get those Darfur rebels who did not sign the peace accord with Khartoum last year to do so ”while building consensus for the urgent deployment of a UN-AU force on the ground.” — AFP



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Gerard Aziakou
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