ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia, Jan. 29 (UPI) -- U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is calling on Africa's leaders to unite efforts to bring peace to Sudan's Darfur region.
"Together, we must work to end the violence and scorched-earth policies adopted by various parties, including militias, as well as the bombings which are still a terrifying feature of life in Darfur," he told an African Union summit Monday in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
The conflict between Sudanese government forces, allied militias and rebel groups has killed at least 200,000 people and displaced more than two million others.
"Life-saving humanitarian work must be allowed to resume, and civil society in Darfur must have a voice in the peace process," he said. "We must persuade non-signatories to join, while building consensus for the urgent deployment of a U.N.-AU force on the ground," referring to rebel groups seeking greater autonomy but who did not join in a peace accord signed last May.
In a 90-minute meeting on the summit sidelines with Sudanese President Omar Bashir, Ban urged him and all parties to cease hostilities and grant humanitarian access.
The new secretary-general later told reporters Bashir agreed to facilitate such access and expressed willingness to cooperate with international efforts toward that end.
Ban said Special Envoy on Darfur Jan Eliasson and AU envoy Salim Salim would go to Khartoum and Darfur early next month to support peace-making efforts, and the president of Sudan welcomed the mission.
The U.N. chief also called for an early government response to plans for a hybrid U.N.-AU force in Darfur of 17,000 peacekeepers and 3,000 police.