13 February 2007The Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Darfur and his African Union (AU) counterpart have held talks with senior Sudanese Government officials and a prominent former rebel at the start of their joint five-day mission to try to re-energize the stalled peace process in the war-torn region. Jan Eliasson and the AU’s Salim Ahmed Salim met Foreign Minister Lam Akol and the presidential assistant Nafie Ali Nafie yesterday in Khartoum, the Sudanese capital, according to a statement released by the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS).The envoys spoke today with Minni Minawi, the senior presidential assistant who is also chairman of the faction of the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army (SLM/A) that signed last year’s Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA) with the Government. They also met the presidential adviser Majzoub al-Khalifa and representatives of other movements which had signed the DPA.Tomorrow Mr. Eliasson and Dr. Salim are scheduled to travel to Darfur to hold meetings mainly with rebel groups that have not signed the DPA.Before departing on their visit, the envoys said they “will be delivering a strong message” on the urgent need for an end to the political and humanitarian crisis engulfing Darfur, where at least 200,000 people have been killed and 2 million others displaced from their homes since 2003.A cessation of hostilities is seen as the first priority so that humanitarian operations can take place and the suffering of civilians can be alleviated. An estimated 4 million people across the vast and impoverished region now depend on aid for survival.Mr. Eliasson and Dr. Salim have repeatedly emphasized that a tangible reduction in violence is vital to create the conditions necessary for serious and all-inclusive political dialogue that includes both signatories and non-signatories to the DPA.Last month Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon described the situation in Darfur as “the largest humanitarian crisis in the world.”As the envoys began their mission, the acting Special Representative for Sudan, Tayé-Brook Zerihoun, briefed the AU Peace and Security Council in Addis Ababa yesterday on the latest political, security and humanitarian developments in Chad and the Central African Republic (CAR), especially the border areas between those two countries and Darfur.Mr. Zerihoun told the meeting that Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has initiated the necessary steps to deploy an advance mission to Chad and the CAR, which would prepare for the possible multi-dimensional UN presence as foreshadowed in a Security Council presidential statement last month.A separate assessment mission has just concluded its visit to the region, and will deliver its final report – including details of the size, scope and mandate of the proposed UN presence – to the Council in the coming days.