February 8, 2008 (UNITED NATIONS) — The UN special envoy for Darfur has told the Security Council that now more than ever, there is an urgent need to demand that the parties in Sudan stop fighting in order to create an environment conducive to peace talks.
Jan Eliasson told the Council “I just received this minute, reports from field about attacks on the villages by the Sudanese army entities and militia groups. […] You have a dramatic reminder at this meeting that there is a clear need, urgently, to demand of the parties an immediate cessation of hostilities,” said Eliasson.
He stressed that substantive peace talks between the government and rebel groups could not work unless the escalation of violence is reversed. He said, to demonstrate their commitment to the political process, the parties in Sudan should unilaterally declare and respect a cessation of hostilities.
However the Darfur envoy on Friday said that rebel groups in Sudan’s western Darfur region are not yet ready for substantive peace talks to end Darfur’s five-year conflict.
“The parties have no doubt made progress in their preparations (for peace negotiations). But they are still to a great degree not ready to engage in substantive talks,” Jan Eliasson told the Security Council.
“The movements still lack consolidated positions and have not yet formed a joint team,” he said in a progress report.
The United Nations has been pushing the rebels and Sudan’s government to hold new negotiations after a first round in Libya last October made little headway.
Some rebel groups have signed a deal with the Sudanese government but the insurgents have split into many factions and others are still fighting for a renewed peace process.
“While the people of Darfur cannot wait for ever, we will have to accept that the steps toward an eventual peace agreement will be incremental and will take longer than we had initially hoped,” Eliasson said.
The Dutch government has indicated that it would be willing to host a new round of talks.
International experts estimate that around 200,000 people have died and 2.5 million have been driven from their homes in the conflict, which has prompted the world’s largest humanitarian operation. Khartoum says the number of dead is much lower and accuses the West of exaggerating.
(Some information in this report provided by VOA and Reuters)