9 November 2007The hybrid United Nations-African Union peacekeeping mission to the war-torn Darfur region (UNAMID) still lacks critical transport and aviation units and the Sudanese Government has not responded yet to the UN-AU submission on the force’s composition, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says, warning that delays to deployment will only exacerbate the humanitarian situation. In his latest report on UNAMID, Mr. Ban says the combination of the delays and the recent spike in security incidents across the western Sudanese region has left Darfur “at a crossroads.” He urges Member States which can do so to contribute the missing transport and aviation capabilities for the mission, which is expected to have more than 25,000 troops and police officers at full capacity. “Without these critical units, the mission will not be able to implement its mandate,” he writes. The Secretary-General also calls on the Sudanese Government to cooperate concerning the acquisition of land, the approval of flight operations rights for UN aircraft and the composition of UNAMID so that the force can be quickly introduced. “This force composition is predominantly African,” he notes, in line with the Security Council resolution earlier this year establishing UNAMID, “and provides for a force that would meet United Nations standards and would be capable of deploying in a timely manner.” UNAMID is slated to assume authority by 31 December this year from the existing AU mission in the impoverished and largely arid region. Late last month the initial management, command and control capabilities for the hybrid force were launched in El Fasher, North Darfur. More than 200,000 people have been killed and at least 2.2 million others left homeless since rebels began fighting Government forces and allied militia known as the Janjaweed in 2003. The humanitarian crisis that has resulted is so widespread that some 4 million Darfurians now depend on aid to survive. Mr. Ban says the start of peace talks last month in neighbouring Libya between some of the numerous Darfur rebel groups and the Sudanese Government “represents a unique opportunity to achieve a definitive end to the suffering of the people of Darfur,” adding that the talks were the first phase of a multi-part process to obtain a political solution.