"Important developments" under way in Sudan since midsummer, including a pledge to end the country's outstanding conflicts, and the establishment of a new transitional government, could serve to edge the country's people closer to stability, Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix said, briefing the UN Security Council on Monday.
Mr. Lacroix, speaking by video teleconference from Paris, said these improvements could bring long-term stability to Darfur and other marginalized areas.
He reported that on 17 August, the Transitional Military Council and the country's main opposition alliance, Forces for Freedom and Change, entered into a new power-sharing deal for a three-year period of transitional government leading up to democratic elections.
On 21 August, the swearing in of a Sovereignty Council took place; comprised of five military personnel and six civilians, two of whom are women. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, a Sudanese Army lieutenant general assumed the Council's presidency, the Transitional Military Council was dissolved, and Dr. Abdallah Hamdouk, economist and UN veteran, will serve as Prime Minister, leading the cabinet expected to be sworn in by 1 September.
The agreement comes following a stall in negotiations set for early April, after the end of a three-decade autocratic rule under President Omar al-Bashir, which sparked mass public strikes and protests over food and basic necessities.
The security situation in the western Sudanese region of Darfur remains largely unchanged, Mr. LaCroix said, adding that sporadic clashes between Sudanese Armed Forces/Rapid Support Forces and the Sudan Liberation Army/Abdul Wahid (SLA/AW) faction are ongoing in Jebel Marra mountains.
Talks are expected to take place between the new Government and various armed groups, he added.
He stressed that the UN-African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) and the UN Country Team continue to provide transition support through state liaison functions, namely in the areas of rule of law, livelihoods, immediate service delivery, and human rights.
The Mission's interim transition team, which relocated from Khartoum to Darfur following the change of Government in April, is expected to become a fully functional joint transition cell in September, he explained.
As far as next steps, Mr. Lacroix reported the UN Department of Peace Operations has initiated discussions with the African Union to develop a joint political strategy for post-UNAMID engagement. Discussions on peacebuilding and the future of the Darfur peace process will take place once the new cabinet is established.
"This is an opportunity to put a definitive end to the conflict in Darfur," Mr. Lacroix stressed, calling on engagements by groups that have not been part of the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur, and highlighting the importance of donor support in facilitating transitions across the country.
Seeing and end to the conflict, however, will require an irreversible transition from peacekeeping to peacebuilding," he concluded.
Also briefing the Council, Smail Chergiu, African Union Commissioner for Peace and Security, said that at this critical juncture, the international community must come up with a coordinated approach to see how best to support the peace process and ensure inclusivity and a successful outcome.
It is also imperative that those parties remaining outside the peace process are persuaded to join it, he added.
"The current political environment and the changes taking place in Sudan provide a unique opportunity for ending the armed conflicts and for achieving comprehensive and lasting peace in Darfur and Sudan as a whole," he said, echoing Mr. Lacroix, and adding: "The international community should seize this opportunity to demand a constructive engagement of all concerned actors."