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Darfur: Call for smooth transition to UN operation

Security Council calls for smooth transition to UN operation in Darfur

The Security Council today called on “all parties” to ensure a smooth and successful transfer to a United Nations operation in the violence-wracked Darfur region of Sudan, while also commending the African Union’s (AU) mission in the region and endorsing the group’s 30 April deadline for achieving peace in a conflict that has claimed almost 200,000 lives and displaced two million.

Expressing its “utmost concern over the dire consequences” of the violence, the 15-member Council also reiterated its full support for the inter-Sudanese peace talks being held in Abuja and the lead role taken by the AU, according to a statement read out today by April Council President, Chinese Ambassador Wang Guangya.

The statement noted that the Council “endorses the decision of the African Union Peace and Security Council that 30 April 2006 is the final deadline for reaching an agreement; demands that all parties make the necessary efforts to reach an agreement by this date; and reaffirms its determination to hold accountable those impeding the peace process and committing human rights violations.”

On 10 March, the AU Peace and Security Council decided to support in principle the transition of its African Mission in Sudan (AMIS) to a UN and to extend the mandate of AMIS until 30 September. Today the Council reiterated its support for that decision and called on all parties to take “all necessary measures to ensure a smooth and successful transfer to a United Nations operation.”

The statement went on to urge Member States and international and regional organizations to provide additional assistance to strengthen AMIS, while also repeating a request to the Secretary-General to speed up preparations for its “transition” to a UN operation and highlighting that such an operation would have “strong African participation and character.”

The Council also called for an assessment mission to visit Darfur by the end of this month, and again expressed regret over last week’s decision by the Government of National Unity to deny entry to the region by UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland. The Council expressed similar views over the Government’s decision not to renew the contract of the Norwegian Refugee Council, a non-governmental organization (NGO).

In related developments, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hédi Annabi arrived in Ethiopia today for consultations with AU and other officials related to a UN force for Darfur, a UN spokesman told reporters, adding that the AU’s chief mediator on the peace talks was scheduled to brief the Security Council next Tuesday.

Also regarding Darfur, Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s latest monthly report was released today, in which he highlights further human rights violations, the persisting “high level of violence,” but also the need for the international community to remain committed to improving the situation.

“I am alarmed by the reports of widespread human rights violations committed in Gereida, Mershing and Shearia in Southern Darfur, among other locations, which have led to the displacement of tens of thousands of people,” he noted, while calling on all parties to stop attacks on civilian targets and reminding the Government of its “unconditional duty to protect its citizens.”

“The international community has a critical role to play during this make-or-break period,” Mr. Annan concluded, as he urged donors to continue to support humanitarian efforts despite the difficulties involved.

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