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Planning for UN peacekeeping operation in Darfur

Security Council discusses planning for UN peacekeeping operation in Darfur, Sudan

The Security Council today held closed-door talks on planning for a United Nations peacekeeping operation in the strife-torn Darfur region of Sudan, its president for the month of February told reporters.

Speaking to the press after the consultations, Ambassador John Bolton of the United States, which currently holds the Council’s rotating presidency, said: “We had a preliminary discussion on the draft presidential statement on planning for Sudan Darfur region peacekeeping activities.”

He added that experts would continue talks this afternoon on the text.

The UN currently has a peacekeeping operation (UNMIS) overseeing an accord between the Government of Sudan and the southern Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A). That agreement ended their 21-year civil war, but did not address the fighting in the west, in the Darfur region, which is roughly the size of France.

In addition, the Security Council has mandated UNMIS to provide some support to the African Union’s peacekeeping mission in Darfur, known as AMIS, but that operation is set to expire next month.

Last week, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said AMIS will inevitably have to be transformed into a UN peacekeping operation in Darfur.

“A firm decision by the Security Council is needed, and soon, for an effective transition to take place,” he wrote in an opinion article in The Washington Post.

The Secretary-General also warned that the transition must be more than a cosmetic “re-hat” of African Union (AU) forces. “Any new mission will need a strong and clear mandate, allowing it to protect those under threat, by force if necessary, as well as the means to do so,” he stressed.

Mr. Annan further specified that the UN force must be “larger, more mobile and much better equipped than the current African Union mission” and called on countries that have the required military assets to be ready to deploy them.

On other issues, Mr. Bolton said Council members had considered suggestions for improving their work, including through “more regular, perhaps even daily, briefings by the Secretariat on peacekeeping operations and other matters.”

Regular briefings and subsequent informal discussions on the latest developments would be “good intellectual discipline” for the Council and the Secretariat, he added.

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