At a news conference at UNHQ/NY on Tuesday, UNSG BAN Ki-Moon announced that he will travel week to Sudan, Chad and Libya.

He said he wants to see at first hand the suffering that the proposed 26,000-person strong UN peacekeeping operation approved last month by the UN Security Council will try to alleviate, as well as the difficult conditions in which the UN Mission will have to operate.

He also vowed to look for water under the desert in Sudan.

Here is an excerpt from the transcript provided by the UN:

“I have a three-point action plan moving forward.

Let us begin with peace-keeping. Getting peace-keepers on the ground, speedily and effectively, requires a massive logistics effort—communications, water, food, supplies and infrastructure. This is one of the largest and most complex field operations the United Nations has ever undertaken, together with the African Union, and the work is well underway. But it cannot succeed without the cooperation of the government of Sudan, and I will seek its full support when I meet with President Omar al-Bashir in Khartoum.

Peacekeeping, alone, is not enough. It must be accompanied by a political solution. That is part two of my plan: to push the peace process.

Here, too, we are well on track. The Sudanese government is ready to come to the table. Earlier this month, opposition leaders from Darfur met in Tanzania to coordinate their negotiating positions for these talks. My aim is to keep up the momentum, to push the pace among the parties with a view toward issuing invitations to a full-fledged peace conference by the end of summer.

I will also visit Juba. While the international community must help find a solution to the crisis in Darfur, we must also continue to do our utmost to push the broader peace process, the Comprehensive Peace Agreement previously negotiated between south and north Sudan. Ultimately, this will require a more equitable sharing of power and resources among the central government and the country’s regions, so that fully representative national elections can go forward as planned in 2009. Beyond Darfur, this remains an essential—and fragile—cornerstone of peace in Sudan.

The third element in my action plan for Darfur involves humanitarian aid and development. Any peace in Darfur must be built on solutions that go to the root causes of the conflict. We can hope for the return of more than 2 million refugees. We can safeguard villages and help rebuild homes. Ultimately, however, any real solution to Darfur’s troubles involves something more—sustained economic development.

Precisely what shape that might take is unclear. But we must begin thinking about it, now. There must be money for new roads and communications, as well as health, education, sanitation and social reconstruction programs. The international community needs to help organize these efforts, working with the government of Sudan as well as the host of international aid agencies and NGOs working so heroically on the ground.

Water is the first requirement. Earlier this summer, scientists presented evidence of a vast underground lake beneath south-western Sudan’s arid plains, not unlike similar geologic features discovered elsewhere in the region. That can only be determined by exploratory drilling. A team of UN engineers is on the ground; more will follow in what we hope will be a global effort. If there is indeed water there, we will leave no stone unturned to help find it”.

See UN report here.

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