Sudan: UN envoy lays out road map towards peace in Darfur

The United Nations Special Envoy to Darfur today laid out "a road map towards peace" in the war-ravaged region of the Sudan, calling on all parties to cease hostilities and prepare for forthcoming negotiations.

There are three stages of the road map for the coming months, Jan Eliasson told reporters after briefing the Security Council.

Firstly, "there have been tendencies in the past of initiatives being conducted in parallel rather than in a converging pattern" so such efforts must be united, he said.

The second phase entails pre-negotiation, which will involve "shuttle diplomacy" to both the Government in the capital Khartoum and to non-signatories to last year's Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA).

Lastly, he said that he hoped invitations to peace negotiations will be issued "during the course of the summer."

Mr. Eliasson appealed to all sides to put an end to the fighting - including the cessation of bombings to create an atmosphere favourable to negotiations.

He also urged the parties to ready themselves for discussions. On the Government side, he noted that authorities have already begun conferring on such issues as compensation and wealth-sharing. Other topics which are more sensitive but need to be considered are power-sharing and security, which deals with the disarming of the Janjaweed militia.

Regarding the non-signatories, he observed that "they are fragmenting further," with their number growing to 12. "That is of course a great difficulty, not only politically but also physically and logistically," Mr. Eliasson said, underscoring the need for the non-signatories to coordinate their positions.

"I was met with great understanding by the Security Council today," he said to the press. He also thanked Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for making Darfur a top priority. As a result, "we are now given the resources to beef up and strengthen our staff both in Khartoum and elsewhere to prepare for the negotiations."

He highlighted the importance of the political aspect of bringing peace to Darfur, noting "peacekeeping can never be effective if there is no peace to keep."

Mr. Eliasson welcomed recent regional initiatives to further the peace process, namely the efforts made by Eritrea, Chad and Libya, which will be converged with the UN-African Union (AU) effort.

When asked about the likelihood of all 12 non-signatories attending the planned negotiations, he responded that the parties are aware of the realities on the ground.

"There is a growing frustration, a growing weariness and tiredness for the situation," he said. "The tribal leaders, the leaders in the camps are very, very vocal and make very strongly the point that this conflict must come to an end."

Mr. Eliasson voiced hope in the role the AU and UN can play in serving as "a catalyst for bringing everyone on-board."

Yesterday, at the Security Council, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) called for the arrest of the two suspects - a militia leader and the Minister of State for Humanitarian Affairs - wanted to stand trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur.

The UN and AU are expected to meet with Sudanese authorities in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa on 11 and 12 June regarding the planned hybrid force, and the Security Council will hear a briefing on the meeting's outcome prior to its departure for Africa on 14 June.

Last November, the Government, the UN and the AU agreed to the creation of a hybrid force in Darfur as the third phase of a three-step process to replace the existing but under-resourced AU Mission in the Sudan (AMIS), which has been unable to end the fighting.

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.