UNITED NATIONS (AP) – The UN Security Council on Friday demanded an end to escalating violence in Darfur and called on rebel groups to join peace talks to end the seven-year conflict in the western region of Sudan.
Using tough language in a resolution adopted unanimously, the council said it deplores “the fact that some rebel groups continue to refuse to join the political process.” The resolution extended the joint United Nations-African Union peacekeeping force in Darfur until July 31, 2011, and said the force should give priority to protecting civilians and ensuring that humanitarian workers can safely deliver aid.
Fighting in Darfur that began with a 2003 rebellion by groups who accused the government of neglecting the vast desert region has forced 2.7 million people to flee their homes, according to UN figures. Some 300,000 people are believed to have died.
The Security Council was receiving a briefing late Friday afternoon on clashes and tensions in South Darfur’s Kalma camp where thousands of displaced people now live.
According to the peacekeeping force, known as UNAMID, the violence stemmed from support by some of the internally displaced for the peace talks.
Several rebel groups have negotiated peace agreements with the government at the talks in Doha, Qatar, but Ibrahim Gambari, the top AU-UN envoy in Darfur, told the council earlier in the week that two of the major armed groups — the Justice and Equality Movement and the Sudan Liberation Movement led by Abdelwahid Elnur — have refused to join the talks.
He said the AU-UN mediator, Djibrill Bassole, is in contact with the leadership of both groups to urge them to join the peace process.
At a joint forum in early May, the AU and the UN decided that an overall political and peace agreement in Darfur should be concluded this year, ahead of the Jan. 9 referendum on whether South Sudan should become independent or remain part of Sudan.
Gambari said the prospects for a negotiated settlement in Darfur have improved.
“Civil society is now more involved in peace talks than ever, the government of Sudan is demonstrating renewed commitment to negotiations, and the leaders of most armed opposition movements are either participating in or are expressing an interest in participating in the talks,” he said.
In the resolution, the Security Council reaffirmed “the importance of promoting the AU-UN-led political process,” welcomed UNAMID’s efforts to support the peace talks, and demanded that all rebel groups “immediately engage fully and constructively in the peace process without preconditions.” The council also demanded that all parties to the conflict immediately end attacks on civilians, peacekeepers and humanitarian personnel and commit to a cease-fire.
According to the latest UN figures, UNAMID has deployed 88 percent of its 19,555 authorized military personnel and 70 percent of its 3,772 authorized police.