April 18th, 2007 16:42 EST
Reports of Arms Flights into Darfur
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed deep concern today at evidence presented to Security Council members of the flying of arms and heavy weapons into the war-torn region of Darfur, a direct violation of a United Nations embargo.
Mr. Ban “is especially troubled by reports that private or national aircraft have been illegally provided with UN markings and used for military purposes,” according to a statement released by his spokesperson at UN Headquarters in New York.
“If further substantiated, such actions would be in clear violation of international law and in contravention of the UN’s international status.”
A senior UN official told journalists today that there had been three sightings recently of planes with illegal UN markings – one over Darfur, one over a Government-controlled area in neighbouring Chad and one over the Central African Republic (CAR).
In the statement, Mr. Ban pledged to work closely with the Security Council on the issue, and expected full cooperation from the Sudanese Government and other States “to provide prompt clarification” about the aircraft.
Since 2003 more than 200,000 people have been killed and at least 2 million others forced to leave their homes to escape fighting between Government forces, allied Janjaweed militias and rebel groups. Entire villages have been burned down during the clashes.
Concern has mounted recently that the conflict may spill into Chad and the CAR, and earlier this year Mr. Ban described Darfur as the scene of the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
On Monday, Mr. Ban and the Council both welcomed Sudan’s announcement confirming that it accepts the entire “heavy support package” of troops, police officers, civilian staff and helicopters which the UN will provide to the existing and overstretched African Union (AU) peacekeeping mission in Darfur.
The heavy support package is the second phase of a three-step plan that is supposed to culminate in a hybrid UN-AU peacekeeping force of approximately 17,000 troops and 3,000 police officers. This force is to be staffed mainly by Africans.
Under the support package, which is expected to cost $300 million over its first six months, the UN will supply more than 2,200 troops, 350 police and 1,100 civilian staff to the AU mission, known as AMIS. Helicopters will also be deployed. The UN is already providing a $21 million “light support package” which includes police advisers, civilian staff, technical support and other resources.