31 March 2004 Calling civilian casualties and human rights violations unacceptable, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said today he was "very disturbed" by the continuing conflict in the Darfur region of western Sudan.
In a statement issued by his spokesperson in New York, and distributed to the Darfur ceasefire talks being held in Chad, Mr. Annan said the fighting in Darfur "is having a devastating impact on the lives and well being of the people."
UN officials and agencies have warned over recent weeks that a dire humanitarian crisis is taking place in Darfur, with more than 750,000 Sudanese internally displaced and another 110,000 people fleeing across the border to neighbouring Chad.
Fighting has raged for more than a year between the Sudanese Government, allied militias and rebel groups. Earlier this week, a group of eight UN experts, mostly rapporteurs, said they were concerned by reports that militias, encouraged by the Sudanese Government, were conducting an ethnic cleansing campaign against the local non-Arab population.
In his statement today, Mr. Annan said he welcomed the efforts of Chad's President Idriss Deby, the Sudanese Government, parties to the conflict and the international community to end the hostilities and draw up a long-term solution. He said the UN stands ready to help in any way in the search for solutions
Calling for the fighting to stop first, the Secretary-General also said humanitarian organizations must be allowed safe and unimpeded access to Darfur to help needy civilians.