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African Union conference opens with call for peace

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia, Jan. 30 (UPI) -- A call for a peaceful resolution to conflicts in Central African Republic and South Sudan opened the African Union Assembly Thursday in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

"Our hearts are with the people of the Central African Republic and South Sudan as they continue to be victims of this conflict," African Union Commission Chairman Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma said.

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Zuma told representatives from the 54 African Union member countries, former presidents and U.N. delegates the bloc will keep mediating in the war-torn countries until lasting peaceful solutions are found, the South African government news agency SAnews.gov.za reported Thursday.

Outgoing African Union chairman, Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, warned the conflicts could escalate into a crisis that could undermine gains "we have made in recent years."

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"It is imperative that the peace process succeeds and all parties demonstrate the necessary political leadership and compromise to achieve peace and durable reconciliation," Desalegn said.

The conflicts in the Central African Republic and South Sudan have driven hundreds of thousands of people from their homes, creating a humanitarian crisis.

He urged leaders worldwide to support the African-led Peace Support Mission deployed to the Central African Republic to restore peace and security.

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U.N. Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson also called on the African Union to "do all it can" to protect civilians in South Sudan, SAnews.gov.za said.

"The situation in Central African Republic is of concern for all of us," Eliasson said. "It is the objective of the United Nations to put an end to these atrocities. We need to act without delay."

The summit opened with a moment of silence in remembrance of the late former South African President and Nobel Peace Prize winner Nelson Mandela, who died in December.

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