A joint assessment team of the United Nations and the African Union (AU) stressed on Thursday the necessity of reinforcing an AU peacekeeping mission in Sudan's western region of Darfur and getting ready for UN operations there.
The team, which arrived in Sudan on June 9 to study ways to help Sudan implement a Darfur peace agreement signed last month and a possible role of the UN in the region, is led by UN Under Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Marie Guehenno, and AU Commissioner for Peace and Security Said Djinnit.
At a press conference held by the team following its return to Khartoum from Darfur, Guehenno announced that the team had seen in Darfur indications that peace would hopefully be realized.
"The chance must be seized through reinforcing the AU mission and getting ready for a UN (peacekeeping) operation in Darfur," the UN official said.
"We have clarified our technical views on the necessity of maintaining security in Darfur and the political decision is left for the political institutes," Guehenno said.
Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir reiterated on Tuesday Sudan's rejection to transferring the AU peacekeeping mission to the UN, and equated the deployment of UN forces in Darfur under Chapter Seven of the UN Charter, which authorizes the use of force without a consent of the country concerned, to colonization.
Guehenno said that the Sudanese government had the right to accept or refuse a UN peacekeeping force in Darfur to replace 7, 800-strong AU forces which had already been deployed there.
If the Sudanese government is not ready to accept an international mission, then there will be no such a mission in Darfur, he said.
He said that the UN did not have any hidden agenda against Sudan and was not trying to colonize this country.
He reiterated that the basic aim of the UN was to end the conflict in Darfur and prevent aggravation of a humanitarian disaster which had led to bloodshed of millions of people and killing of thousands.
Djinnit, for his part, said that the final decision on transferring the AU mission to the UN was left for African leaders to take during an African summit in Gambia on July 1.
"The mission in Darfur is the fist peacekeeping mission of the AU, and the decision on the handover will be adopted according to outcomes of consultations among them and the delicate assessment of the situation in Darfur," he said.
The team will deliver a report to the UN and the AU on results of its visit to Sudan.