Saturday, October 08, 2005

EU envoy on peace mission

07/10/2005 13:38 - (SA)
Brussels - Javier Solana, the European Union's security affairs chief, headed for Sudan on Friday for talks with the government about the humanitarian crisis in Darfur.

Solana was scheduled to make a quick visit to the western Sudanese region, where the EU supported an African peacekeeping mission.

He was scheduled to return on Sunday after a stopover in Chad for talks with President Idriss Deby who had accused Sudanese militias involved in the Darfur conflict of making raids into his country.

Before leaving, Solana said he would also discuss the implementation of a January 9 peace deal that ended a North-South civil war after more than two decades in Sudan.

Campaign of murder, rape and arson

In the separate Darfur conflict, rebels from black African tribes took up arms in early 2003, complaining of discrimination and oppression.

They accused the government of unleashing Arab tribal militia known as the Janjaweed against civilians in a campaign of murder, rape and arson.

The campaign had already claimed the lives of 180 000 people - many from hunger and disease - and displaced two million others.

In Khartoum on Saturday, Solana would meet Sudanese President Omer el-Bashir and two vice-presidents, Ali Osman Taha and Salva Kiir Mayardit.

Sudan's government and Darfur rebels were locked in peace talks, sponsored by the African Union, that were making no progress.

Broad-based conferences

This week, the non-governmental International Crisis Group said this would not change if divisions remained between the main rebel groups.

The ICG said: "No marked progress toward a lasting, comprehensive solution will be made unless the key figures in these rebel movements return to Darfur and organise broad-based conferences to resolve their leadership disputes.

"Khartoum will exploit their weaknesses at the negotiating table, and they will find themselves increasingly isolated.

"A deadly conflict has been growing between the rebel groups that has put civilians in an increasingly desperate situation."

The EU supported a Darfur peacekeeping operation by the AU with trucks, planes and other logistical help such as command planning, surveillance and housing.

Accompanying Solana were Lord Triesman, Britain's minister for African affairs, and Austrian deputy foreign minister Hans Winkler. for African affairs, and Austrian deputy foreign minister Hans Winkler

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