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14 July - The search for durable peace in the war-scarred Darfur region of western Sudan has gained momentum and is at a critical stage, the head of the joint African Union-United Nations Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) said today, urging all parties to the conflict to join the process.

“I therefore, wish to call on all who are holding out, particularly, the Justice and Equality Movement under Dr. Khalil Ibrahim, to join the process in the interest of peace and stability,” Ibrahim Gambari told representatives of Darfur civil society organizations who are attending the second round of discussions in the Qatari capital, Doha, to seek ways of contributing to resolving the conflict.

Mr. Gambari welcomed the news that Abdul Wahid al Nur, the leader of the Sudan Liberation Army/Movement (SLA/M), had expressed his support for the peace talks in Doha.

“I firmly believe that this decision will positively change the dynamics of the peace process; indeed, only through the active participation of all parties to the conflict will lasting peace and stability be possible in Darfur,” Mr. Gambari said.

“Your presence here in Doha can make a difference,” he told the civil society representatives on Monday. “It can be a catalyst for the parties, including the Government and armed movements to speed up the peace process and reach an agreement that addresses the underlying problems in Darfur, sooner rather than later,” said the Joint Special Representative.

He welcomed continuing efforts to enhance cohesion among the representatives of Darfur civil society, saying greater coordination and coherence among them was crucial for the conduct of the peace process and for the achievement of an all inclusive and comprehensive peace agreement.

He commended Qatar's Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Ahmad Ben Abdallah Al Mahmoud, the AU-UN Joint Chief Mediator Djibrill Bassolé and the Government of Qatar for organizing the peace conferences, in coordination with UNAMID.

Meanwhile, UNAMID's Civil Affairs component on Monday met with representatives of the Transitional Darfur Regional Authority (TDRA) in El Geneina, West Darfur, to discuss a joint venture aimed at promoting the peace agreement signed between the Rizeigat and Misseriya communities on 28 June to end three months of bloody feuding between them.

The UNAMID representatives spoke with TDRA's chairman of the Peace & Reconciliation Commission Asaad Bahreldin and the Reconciliation Committee's rapporteur Yagoub Mohammed Ali about a strategy for the publication and circulation of the peace agreement document to remote communities.

It is hoped that the project will help defuse residual tensions and encourage commitment to implementing the agreement to prevent another cycle of violence. UNAMID will help fund the plan as a Quick Impact Project.

In a related development, following an assessment visit to the Kheir Khanaga Women's Prison in El Fasher, North Darfur, UNAMID and the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) have provided equipment for temporary shelters to help alleviate overcrowding.

The prison houses nearly 90 female inmates, some of whom are accompanied by their children. UNAMID plans to work with UNHCR partners and the North Darfur Prison Authority to help improve services, rehabilitate facilities, train corrections officers and provide child-friendly spaces. The mission recently funded the construction of a new women's wing at the Shallah prison, the second largest in the country.