The United Nations Security Council has agreed to end the UN and African Union's long-running peacekeeping mission in Darfur when its mandate ceases on December 31.
The Council on Tuesday adopted Resolution 2559 that closes UNAMID and hands over responsibility for maintaining peace and security in the ravaged region to Sudan's transitional government.
The withdrawal of all personnel and equipment from the mission -- deployed since 2007 and which had 16,000 peacekeepers at its peak -- will begin January 1 and is expected to be completed by June 30.
The termination of UNAMID was requested by the Sudanese government and backed by China, Russia and African members of the Council.
"The transitional government is committed to providing security and stability for all citizens of the Darfur states, especially those in camps for internally displaced persons, and to ensuring the safe and voluntary return of refugees," the Sudanese foreign ministry said Wednesday.
"It will continue its efforts to address the roots of the problem and consolidate the foundations of tribal reconciliation and lay the foundations for transitional justice and the rule of law," it said in a statement.
The date was seen as premature by Western members of the Council, which called for a gradual drawdown to ensure the protection of civilians in the war-torn region.
Crowds of Darfuris had protested against the closure outside the mission's headquarters in the sprawling camp of Kalma, in Nyala, capital of South Darfur state earlier this month.
Britain welcomed the adoption of the resolution but said it regretted the Council had been unable to agree on allowing UNAMID's 8,000 peacekeepers to continue to provide support during its drawdown.
"All they will be able to do is pack their bags and wait to leave Darfur," said its ambassador to the UN, Barbara Woodward.
- Call for mandate extension -
Amnesty International had also called for an extension of UNAMID's mission.
"The UN Security Council must extend the mandate of the peacekeeping mission in Darfur... by at least six months in light of failure by government security forces to protect civilians in recent months," the rights group said on December 9.
Darfur was the scene of a bitter conflict that broke out in 2003 between African minority rebels, complaining of marginalization, and forces backed by the government of now ousted president Omar al-Bashir.
The United Nations estimates the fighting killed 300,000 people and displaced 2.5 million others.
The conflict has largely subsided over the years, apart from occasional clashes between pastoralists and displaced people settled in camps.
In October, Sudan's transitional government signed a peace deal with a coalition of rebel and political groups including from Darfur.
The agreement covered pressing issues around security, land ownership, transitional justice, power sharing, and the return of people who fled their homes because of fighting.
It also provides for the dismantling of rebel forces and the integration of their fighters into the national army.
Only two groups have refused to sign the accord.
Sudan's transitional government has agreed Bashir will face the International Criminal Court on charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur.
Bashir, who was ousted in April 2019, has been jailed in Khartoum's intensive security Kober prison.
In the October peace deal with rebels, Sudan's government agreed to set up a special court for crimes in Darfur, and that Bashir should also stand trial before that.