A high-level meeting in Paris bringing together over a dozen countries concerned about the situation in the war-ravaged Darfur region of Sudan has helped generate additional momentum towards ending the suffering of the people there, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said after attending the talks.
Speaking to reporters in the French capital, Mr. Ban said the United Nations is maintaining its focus on four distinct tracks - the political process, peacekeeping, humanitarian assistance, and reconstruction and development in Darfur.
The Secretary-General noted considerable progress with respect to the deployment of the UN-African Union hybrid peacekeeping operation, as well as in reinvigorating political dialogue among the parties.
He added that his Special Envoy for Darfur, Jan Eliasson, and his AU counterpart, Salim Ahmed Salim, have developed a road map to negotiations, with the objective of restarting peace talks by the end of the summer.
In addition to Mr. Ban and Mr. Eliasson, the world body was represented at the meeting by Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Marie Guéhenno and Margareta Wahlstrom, Assistant Secretary-General for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
On the sidelines of the meeting, Mr. Ban met with United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, according to a UN spokesperson. He also attended a luncheon hosted by French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner.
Prior to flying back to New York, Mr. Ban also had meetings scheduled with Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora and French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
Meanwhile, the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) reported that the Senior Adviser to the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Darfur, Pekka Haavisto, visited Sudan from 20 to 24 June, during which he held extensive consultations on the road map.
The Mission continues to report violent attacks on civilians, aid workers and convoys in Darfur, where more than 200,000 people have been killed and at least 2 million others displaced from their homes since clashes erupted in 2003 between Government forces, allied Janjaweed militias and rebel groups.