The current troop level of the new African Union-United Nations hybrid peacekeeping force seeking to end the violence in the troubled Sudanese region of Darfur is inadequate, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today, appealing for resources to allow for full deployment.
Currently, there are 9,000 blue helmets serving with the force, known as UNAMID. "That is insufficient," Mr. Ban told reporters in New York, urging the international community to ensure that the mission can reach its full deployment of 26,000 personnel "as soon as possible."
He said that during a lengthy telephone discussion with Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir last Saturday, the two men agreed to meet in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, at the upcoming African Union (AU) summit.
The Sudanese Government, for its part, must commit itself to technical issues, such as a status of forces agreement, the Secretary-General said. Meanwhile, the international community must step up its support for UNAMID by contributing "critical assets" such as helicopters and heavy transport equipment.
A "good framework" - including the Darfur peace process and the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), the landmark 2005 accord ending the country's long-running north-south civil war - is in place to resolve the problems in Darfur and Sudan as a whole, he added.
In light of increasing tensions between Sudan and Chad, Mr. Ban urged the leaders of the two countries to abstain from using military force, warning that doing so will only aggravate the situation.
The Security Council also expressed its concern today at the rise in the activities of illegal armed groups in western Darfur and eastern Chad, leading to a surge in tensions.
In a statement read to the press by Ambassador Giadalla Ettalhi of Libya, which holds the Council's rotating presidency for January, the 15-member body called on the two nations "to exercise restraint and pursue dialogue and cooperation" and to adhere to past agreements.
In addition, the head of UNAMID voiced his concern over Chad-Sudan relations, which could have a detrimental impact in an area already besieged by instability.
If problems are not resolved, "great numbers of internally displaced persons and refugees will likely be the first victims of any further escalation," said Rodolphe Adada, who also serves as the AU-UN Joint Special Representative for Darfur.
He is also worried about the impact of tensions on the new peacekeeping force - on which many Darfurians are pinning their hopes for a lasting peace - which needs the cooperation of all countries in the region to succeed.
Mr. Adada called on Chadian and Sudanese leaders to "exercise self-restraint, return to dialogue and abide by their commitments to existing agreements between them."