As Sudan inaugurates new unity government, Annan urges settlement for Darfur

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today hailed the inauguration in Sudan of its Government of National Unity and called for efforts to resolve the country's still-simmering conflicts, particularly in Darfur.

"The peace process between North and South must be made irreversible - which it will not be, unless it takes root in the East and in the West as well," Mr. Annan cautioned at a ceremony in Khartoum attended by the new leaders of Sudan. "As an immediate priority, therefore, the Government of National Unity must work to resolve the conflicts in Darfur and in Eastern Sudan."

The Secretary-General credited a "massive international effort" with containing the humanitarian crisis in Darfur but stressed that it has not yet been resolved. "Only a comprehensive political solution can bring an end to the conflict and suffering there," he said.

Welcoming the Declaration of Principles agreed in Abuja last week, and the recent Cairo Agreement between the outgoing government and the National Democratic Alliance, the Secretary-General voiced hope that direct talks between Sudan's new Government and the movements in the East "will now begin without delay."

Sudan's political milestone today came about thanks to a Comprehensive Peace Agreement concluded six months ago. Negotiations were carried out mostly in the Kenyan cities of Naivasha and Machakos.

"The first and most essential task of this new government must be to ensure that peace extends to the whole nation, and that national unity, as prescribed in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, is made attractive to all of Sudan's peoples," he said, calling on all concerned to set aside old suspicions and party differences, establish relations based on mutual trust, embrace religious tolerance, and work together for the good of the whole country.

All armed groups that have not yet joined this national process, as well as members of the political opposition, must play their part in implementing the Comprehensive Peace Agreement "through non-violent, democratic means, and help prepare for free and fair elections in three years' time," he added.

For its part, the international community stands ready to help with not only moral support, but also by providing peacekeepers and observers, financial and technical assistance and advice.

"For the first time in many years, a lasting peace for all the people of Sudan is now within reach," he observed. "To secure that peace, no effort must be spared," he added, calling for joint efforts by "Sudanese and foreigners, Northerners and Southerners, Easterners and Westerners, men and women" to make it a reality.