July 16th, 2007 14:44 EST
Ban Ki-moon pledges to press for action on Darfur
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today pledged to push for action to facilitate the speedy deployment of peacekeepers to the troubled Darfur region of Sudan, while at the same time moving decisively to foster a lasting political settlement to the conflict there.
Addressing a press conference in New York following a two-week trip to Afghanistan and several European countries, Mr. Ban said Darfur dominated many of his discussions with top officials. “We have made, I think, important progress,” he said. “We must now push the pace. Hard.”
Mr. Ban outlined a number of areas where he would press for decisive action. He noted that the Security Council is now considering a draft resolution on the proposed hybrid UN-African Union force for Darfur. “I sincerely hope that the Security Council will take the necessary action within this week – which will allow more than 20,000 military personnel and civilian police,” said Mr. Ban.
The draft calls on Member States to finalize their contributions within 90 days, he added. “I think this is fast, by UN standards. But I want to move more rapidly. The political situation on the ground is too fragile, the humanitarian crisis too dire, to waste more precious time,” he said.
The Secretary-General said the UN must work with the AU and other partners to “start preparing the ground for our peacekeepers immediately.”
He noted that a preliminary reconnaissance group leaves for Sudan tomorrow, while China will soon send a contingent of military engineers to Darfur to commence communications and logistical work that must precede the mission.
Mr. Ban said he had been informed that “several hundred international troops, or more, will be ready to deploy by October,” but added, “I will push for September.”
With the first units of the so-called “heavy support package” slated to start deploying later this year, he said he would press for expeditious action. “I will push to accelerate our timetable to the maximum, to the extent that security and logistics allow.”
The Secretary-General also vowed to “push no less hard on the political front.”
Mr. Ban’s Special Envoy Jan Eliasson today completed a two-day meeting in Tripoli, Libya. Participants adopted a communiqué on laying the groundwork for negotiations, starting with a meeting from 3 to 5 August in the Tanzanian capital, Arusha, with “leading personalities” of the movements that have not signed the Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA) with a view to holding a first round of negotiations before the end of August.
“Our intention is to step up the pace of political negotiations involving all parties – rebel leaders, tribal leaders, Government leaders. The goal is to get them around a table by early September,” Mr. Ban explained.
He cautioned that a political accord must in turn be followed by development programmes that go to the root causes of the conflict, warning that without this, “there can be no lasting solutions.”
The Tripoli meeting convened by the UN and the AU was also attended by officials from Sudan, Canada, Chad, China, Egypt, Eritrea, France, Italy, Libya, the Netherlands, Norway, Russian Federation, United Kingdom, United States, the European Union and the League of Arab States.