UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. Security Council on Tuesday demanded an end to escalating violence in Sudan's Darfur region and more robust action by peacekeepers to protect civilians, ensure the delivery of humanitarian aid and deter threats against peacekeeping troops.
A resolution adopted unanimously by the council extended the mandate of the joint U.N.-African Union peacekeeping force in Darfur, known as UNAMID, until Aug. 31, 2014. It welcomed steps to reconfigure the force to include up to 16,200 military personnel and up to 4,690 police and to have it focus on areas facing the highest security threats.
The council also expressed serious concern at the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Darfur, condemned increased human rights violations, and demanded that all armed groups immediately engage in negotiations without preconditions to reach a permanent cease-fire and a comprehensive peace settlement.
Darfur has been gripped by bloodshed since 2003 when rebels took up arms against the government in Khartoum, accusing it of discrimination and neglect. The U.N. says 300,000 people have died in the conflict and 2.7 million have fled their homes.
The resolution's adoption comes just over two weeks after seven UNAMID peacekeepers from Tanzania were killed and 17 others were injured in the deadliest ever attack on the international force in Sudan's troubled western region, which the Security Council strongly condemned.
A February report by a U.N. panel of experts said that some armed opposition groups angry about the peacekeepers' presence have called them "a legitimate target."
Two rebel groups have signed the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur with the Sudanese government, which lays the groundwork for a peace process. The Security Council demanded that non-signatory groups refrain from impeding its implementation and "engage immediately and without preconditions to make every effort to reach a permanent cease-fire."
Inter-communal fighting among militias and clashes with government forces have increased in intensity and frequency since January, according to a report to the council earlier this month by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to the council. An estimated 300,000 people have been displaced in Darfur this year, more than the past two years combined, the report said.
Britain's U.N. Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant welcomed the adoption of the resolution which he said focuses the mission on protection of civilians and humanitarian tasks.
"It's got some stronger language than before on the troop contributing forces, and the need for them to be robust in the face of the attacks that they have suffered," he said.
The resolution urges UNAMID "to deter any threats against itself and its mandate" and to ensure that its troops are properly trained and equipped.
The resolution also calls for Ban to conduct a review of UNAMID performance.