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Zoellick: Remarks at Press Briefing in Sudan

Press Briefing

Robert B. Zoellick, Deputy Secretary
Khartoum, Sudan
April 14, 2005

DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: Well, thank you all for being here and I apologize for being late. I had an extensive set of meetings. As I think most of you are aware, this trip started a few days ago for me in Oslo, where I attended a conference that was focused on generating more support from the donor community for the North/South accord, the CPA. And as part of that conference I was pleased to announce a substantial U.S. contribution of about 1.7 billion dollars, pending final congressional action on about half of it. While there I also stressed the interconnection between the North/South accord and events in Darfur, where we face some enormous challenges on both the humanitarian and the security side. And recognizing that ultimately, to deal with the problems of Darfur, one best chance in terms of political reconciliation would be through the implementation of the North/South process; so seeing the interconnection between these two issues.

Today I started out by having a very helpful briefing by the US staff here, including I want to emphasize - the AID mission, because the people that I had a chance to meet with today lead a very important team that is risking life and going through some very difficult circumstances to try to make sure that millions of people get the food, basic care that they need. And also we've got a very small mission here but they're taking care of an awful lot of work as we expand our efforts to try to deal with these challenges and so they gave me a good sense of the conditions.

Then I met with some of the SPLM representatives so these are the people that work closely with Dr. Garang, just came to Khartoum earlier this month and are key players in the North/South process, and I wanted to get a sense from them about how the implementation is proceeding, what next steps they see, and also stress, as I do in every meeting, the interconnection of this with Darfur and seeking their help in that process.

Then I had a long session with first Vice President Taha who I had also met in Oslo and who I had spoken with on the phone before and then foreign minister Ismail and after this session, I'm going to be meeting some tribal leaders from Darfur. I'm really looking forward to that because while I'm conveying messages along the way, I'm also trying to listen and learn to perspectives of different actors in this struggle and conflict.

I'd wanted to meet a representative of the African Union here but the Ambassador from Nigeria wasn't back but I hope tomorrow to have a chance to meet some of the AU commanders because tomorrow as you may know I'm going on to Rumbek in the south and then on to Darfur where I want to try to talk with the AU about their efforts to expand the security mission and some of the planning and logistical aspects of that. I was able to meet our defense attaché today and get some additional information about the support we've provided in the past and might be able to provide in the future. And there are some US officers that are actually going to be joining me for that session with the African Union so I want to get their perspective on how we can support that expansion and then I also will be meeting with our aid representatives and some of the NGOs.

On the CPA implementation I got a good sense that both the SPLM and the government are very much focused on trying to achieve the first step-the national constitutional review commission by later this month. They then want to try to develop the interim constitution. There's been a lot of work done on the interim constitution but both the government and the SPLM are trying to expand that discussion to all the parties in Sudan to make it a truly inclusive process. And then trying to complete the government of national unity, if possible by late July. I emphasize the importance of this process not only in overcoming what is at least a 22 year old struggle between north and south, actually decades long, in some respects, longer.

But also that this is the key political framework for trying to deal with the other issues, particularly Darfur, but we also talked about challenges in the north and in the east in Sudan. So this offers the opportunity that I described in Oslo as the positive or upward spiral, which if we can create the right political context, support from the United States and others, that can help create a framework for further development in Sudan and as I discussed in particular with Foreign Minister Ismail, how important that is to all the countries in the region given the size and influence of Sudan. But we also focused on Darfur and the critical need to address some very serious problems there: trying to stop the militia, working closely with the African Union as it expands its mission there and also trying to assist and do everything we can on the humanitarian side.

As many of you know there are only a few weeks before the rainy season starts and so there's a pressing need to get more food into the camps, where, at least according to our people, the basic nutrition conditions have been established for those camps. But we need to keep it up by providing the food supplies. I talked about a variety of detailed steps including making sure we get fast turnaround on visas for our workers, our aid workers and the NGOs, and the government emphasized their commitment to fast-track the visa proposals. Investigations in Darfur of any incidents including the one I mentioned in Oslo.

But also looking to the future and I was pleased that there were statements about the need to try to set conditions for the return of displaced people since we're talking about millions of people needing to get back on their own land. And we also talked about the need to support the Abuja process, which is the key political reconciliation between the rebels in Darfur and the government and after I left Oslo, one of my team members had meetings with the SLM officials, to try, and JEM officials to urge them to join the negotiating process. So the key point in the message here that I had with the first Vice President as well as the Foreign Minister, is that President Bush and Secretary Rice asked me to come to Khartoum because they wanted to emphasize our commitment to trying to deal with these problems. Our strong belief that the North/South accord, which I'm proud that Ambassador Danforth and Secretary Powell had a key role in developing along with our Africa staff, provides a key framework. And that we are backing up our rhetoric with very serious financial support and serious diplomatic commitment. But to be successful in doing that we're going to have to turn around the situation in Darfur. And we talked extensively about the very strong feelings in the United States and elsewhere about the terrible conditions, the violence, the crimes against humanity in Darfur and the need to make progress on those issues. So I was pleased with the interaction and the substance with both the first Vice President and the Foreign Minister. We got into some considerable detail on these issues, but ultimately, actions speak louder than words. So, happy to take your questions.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, Deputy Secretary, Vice President Taha today-

DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: I think for everybody (inaudible) if you just say who you're from and -

QUESTION: Ok. Liz Sidoti from the Associated Press. Vice President Taha today said he was committed to ending the violence in Darfur, however he's made comments to that effect in the past and I'm wondering, given that violence still continues there, do you think that he'll follow through and if so, what's different about now than before, and how much influence do you think he and the government have within the militia?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: Let's see there are three questions there.

QUESTION: Yeah, sorry.

DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: That's OK. Let me take the first one, or the last one first, on the influence in the militia. I think the government can and should do a lot. There is, we've discussed before, there are tribal disputes in their militia that may be out of anybody's control, but I think the basic formula here is the government should take every effort it can to stop the militias. It certainly shouldn't conduct any violence itself and that was the commitment that was given to me. But, in addition, where the government doesn't feel it can act then we need to support the African Union to be able to act. And that doesn't just mean accept the African Union, that means support the African Union. So steps that the African Union needs to expand its mission, that the government would support those efforts. We need additional logistical help to get in there. The government would support those efforts. And I got quite specific about some of the things, for example, in terms of customs issues to help support the organization that is a contractor that helps with the AU expansion. Goes by the initials PAE. So, we focused on that in some detail. Now, your other two questions were, I'm sorry-

QUESTION: What's different about his comments this time? What makes you believe?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: And what was the other one?

QUESTION: Do you believe, that, that he will-

DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: Oh, what's different this time. Well look, one of the reasons that I wanted to come here, was to see people face to face; to emphasize how important this was to my country. The positive prospects that we've talked about, which I just emphasized in Oslo with a rather large financial contribution. And also the prospects of moving towards more positive relations generally. But then also to make clear, face to face, what we need to see in terms of the situation in Darfur and in the North/South accord. So, I feel I have been able to communicate that and now we'll have to see what actions are taken. The responses that I've been given were good responses but this has been a problem that has led to tens of thousands of people dying, so we have to solve the problem and that's what I will look for.

What else is different? A couple of things. You know, the prospects of North/ South accord with the political reconciliation and the fact that the United States and others are willing to back us, so there's a very strong positive incentive process. The reports that I've gotten, but again this is what I'm here to see, and I'll be in Darfur tomorrow, is that, some good reports on the role of the African Union. And our team here has said where the African Union operates its been able to play a positive role, so we need to expand that operation. That's for the AU to decide. We've been encouraging that. Secretary Rice was seeing the African Union representative today back in Washington, so we're trying to have a team-tag on this process. And so, I think that there's a possibility of again strengthening the security conditions in Darfur, but I'm also focused very heavily now on meeting the near-term humanitarian needs as we approach the rainy season. So we focused on some detailed questions like, you know, trying to make sure that the support for people going up the roads and other aspects. I'm sorry.

QUESTION: (Name inaudible) Blue Nile TV Channel: You said that the United States wants to improve the process (inaudible) Sudan and the continental (inaudible) resolution conflict in Darfur. (Inaudible).

DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: Well, your first question about how can I reconcile that? Well, the United States is willing to put up far more money than anybody else to try to help deal with the problems of Sudan, in the north/south and also in Darfur. We're also making a rather strong diplomatic commitment and it's an effort that I've been making with countries in Europe and others around the world. So, we are starting that process of supporting the North/South accord right now, by trying to build infrastructure.

That's one reason I'm going to Rumbek to talk to Dr. Garang myself about that process. We think that the North/South accord has the potential to be an historic accord. Not only for North/South relations but for all of Sudan and, we hope, for this part of Africa. But at the same time, as I've emphasized, if the government of Khartoum is associated with terrible loss of life in Darfur, it will be very difficult for my government and others to be able to support that government. We're now moving, we hope, to a national unity government, which I hope will also help effect the process.

But I think the best thing that I can do for the parties is to be very clear, to say that while we are very committed to the North/South accord and while we want to try to help with that peaceful reconciliation, we cannot ignore tens of thousands of people dying, being killed or being displaced from their homes. And so together north, south, it's a topic I've talked about with the SPLM as well, United States, the AU and others; we have to address that problem as well. And then you made a reference at the end-oh, the resolutions, yeah.

I did raise the resolutions because I felt it was important to communicate what I thought those resolutions stood for. And first, I emphasized that the first resolution that was passed unanimously by the UN Security Council was to support the North/South accord with a ten thousand person, peace-monitoring mechanism, which my country is also giving substantial financial support for. But, what I emphasized for the other two is that, what they are emphasizing is that people will be held accountable for their actions. Both of those stress accountability, one in the form of economic sanctions, another in the form of a legal and judicial process. And so my suggestion to the government of Sudan was that it get out ahead of this process and that it also move on accountability. I talked with the government; they've started to arrest some people and I urged them to proceed with the judicial process and to do it in a transparent way and to open that to the world as they proceed in the process.

So, again, to me the resolutions are not a contradiction but rather supporting the message that there's a positive path or there's a downward path. And I'm doing all that I can to try to move on the positive path, but it will take decisions of others as well. And I will say that the conversations I had today were ones that I think people recognize this point, but, as I said in the answer to the other question, we'll have to see the actions.

QUESTION: Glen Kessler from the Washington Post. Did you raise with the government the reports that the human rights monitors (inaudible) as well as reports that there might be some buildup in troops (inaudible)?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: I emphasized the point of harassment of aid workers. I didn't have that particular report. But the whole thrust of my remarks was, we need to do everything we can to support aid workers and get them in for visas and provide the type of support that the government could provide and then help with the AU's provision along the way. So I definitely stressed the need to protect and support the aid workers as we proceed. And definitely not to be harassing them. And then the second-

QUESTION: There have been some reports of possible buildup of their military (inaudible).

DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: I haven't seen those and the sense that I got from the government was actually that they expected their military, I emphasized no offensive action, and I haven't seen any offensive action and we talked about, you know, AU monitoring of flights and pulling back the Antonovs and other aspects. So again, we'll see what the actions are but that's, I got no sense of it.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: Did you say Juba Post? Well, I should let you know that we also talked about, as part of the North/South process, as I did in Oslo, to urge the government to move forward with the withdrawal of forces from Juba so that the new southern government could establish its position there. And I got a sense that as the reconciliation process goes forward over the course of the coming months with the constitution that is their plan to do so. But on the particular point on the funding; the funding that we have provided is a combination of, sort of, NGO and some aspects as we help support the setting up of the government of southern Sudan. It does not go to the government in Khartoum, but these are some of the topics I'll be discussing with Dr. Garang tomorrow to try to support it from everything from schools to health to roads and the infrastructure process. But our aid mission has been already contributing a significant effort on the humanitarian side, and we're very pleased now that we're seeing some of the displaced people return, that we now can build some of the work with the government to build the infrastructure for the new political entity.

QUESTION: Jonah Fischer, BBC. Secretary of State Powell last year was the first to say what's going on in Darfur is genocide. Is the United States' position that genocide is still going on? H ow many people does the United States think have died in Darfur? (Inaudible).

DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: The State Department analysis has been that the number of people who died beyond what would normally die is in the range of sixty to a hundred and sixty, as I believe. That's thousands. There are numbers that are higher and what I would emphasize in this is that I don't think anybody could know for sure. So, I think, you know, one has to be cautious with all these estimates, but since you asked I gave you sort of, our range estimate. But recognize that I, as a policy maker, take it with a certain degree of uncertainty around the sides.

And as for your first question, well, Secretary Powell made the point he did because he believes strongly and Secretary Rice believes strongly, and I believe strongly, that what has gone on in Darfur, has to stop. It's been a terrible series of events and as you know, there's a debate. The UN did a legal analysis of whether this is genocide and their conclusion was it was crimes of humanity as opposed to genocide. I really don't want to get into a debate about terminology because I think what we have to do is try to solve the problem and solve both the humanitarian problem and solve the political underlying conditions that led to it. So, I don't want to get in a conflict with the UN about the structure. You know, my government has spoken about what we thought occurred but frankly, the reason I'm here is not just to talk about terminology but to try to deal with the underlying problem.

QUESTION: Ophera McDoom from Reuters. Directly (inaudible) this has in any way distracted from the implementation of the CPA and will it make the government dig its heels in?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: Now pardon me, I try to cover a lot of topics but this is, this is the resolution that dealt with accountability (inaudible) number? There were three.

QUESTION: Darfur to the ICC.

DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: And your question was, did-

QUESTION: Has it distracted the government from the implementation of the CPA and did the government dig its heels in, in terms of cooperation with the international community?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: I haven't seen a distraction in terms of the implementation of the CPA. I think the government of Sudan as well as Dr. Garang and other parties recognize this is everybody's interest to proceed and certainly that was the message coming out of the Oslo Conference. So, will it distract? Time will tell. What I emphasized was that there has to be accountability. I urged the Sudanese to take their own steps for accountability. But I emphasized that, as I did in my remarks in Oslo, that this demonstrates that the eyes of the world are upon events in Sudan. And there are some very constructive events that we want to encourage and there's some very destructive events that we have to try to deal with. And I think that is the message.

QUESTION: Inaudible.

DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: I'm not sure I got all of that but I, if I didn't please come back at me. I think we can be very sure that, it won't go to the government of Khartoum because we're making sure that they focus, you know, through our direct projects, on issues to help build the infrastructure and the, the social system in the south. So, you know, we have direct control over these funds; we're not putting them through a general trust. He's using the call. I don't know if he's going to give you a second one or not. He did?

QUESTION: One more time. Is there any possibility of NATO involvement (inaudible)?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: Well, when I was in Brussels at the NATO Council about a week ago, I raised this issue with the NATO ambassadors because one of the purposes of that trip was to help focus attention with our European partners on some common challenges; and one that I wanted to highlight was Sudan. And the Secretary General of NATO has expressed an interest in this, a number of member states have expressed an interest in it. Obviously, it has to start with the African Union. And the African Union has to decide, it's in the lead, what sort of support it might seek and from whom.

I raised this issue when I met with Foreign Minister Zuma of South Africa, who is the chairperson. She seemed quite open, even positive, about the possibility. But, and I've also discussed it with the Sudanese authorities and its an example of the point that I made, that if the African Union needs support, whether it be NATO, European Union, member states, that I would encourage them to be open to that process.

I don't know for sure whether we'll come through that mechanism and, but one of the things I will be talking about with the African Union commanders is their sense of the needs for planning and logistic support, transportation, communications, and as I said to the parties at the Oslo Conference; my country wants to support this. We haven't decided the best way how, but we want to hear what the AU has to say and see how others want to respond.

QUESTION: (Inaudible).

DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: I hadn't known that, but I've learned it in the past month.

QUESTION: (Inaudible).

DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: Well, because it is Sudan's country. So, countries are held responsible for actions in their territory. And exactly one of the points that I discussed with the government officials today, is that if there's parts of the territory where they feel they cannot enforce law and order, then we need to work with the African Union to have the African Union capable and supported in its efforts to try to ensure that the ceasefire is undertaken. I will emphasize, and I, this goes to your point. I do realize that there are many conflicting forces and tribal issues here. That's why, as I said, I'm meeting with four tribal leaders; at least I was scheduled to be, from four different tribal groups right after this session. And I realize that the rebel groups have to be brought into this process as well.

And that's one of the reasons why we believe the SPLM can play a constructive role in that process and I urged them to do so, since their associations with at least one of the groups. And its one of the reasons why some other members of the US government met with the groups in Oslo and encouraged them to also sit down and, and negotiate, because conflict from any side is not going to solve this problem.

We've got to try to take advantage of the North/South framework to create peaceful resolution and reconciliation dealing with the Darfur issues, east, north, other ones that I discussed with the Foreign Minister.

And what I hope people can see, whether they're in Darfur, or whether they're in Khartoum, or whether they're in the south, is that the United States and other countries are willing to back this effort substantially, if people come to peaceful terms. And this will be done within the Sudanese state, within the terms that were set by the CPA; that there are provisions that, that allow degrees of autonomy and decentralization and sharing of wealth and sharing of political power; and all this is moving towards a process of elections in about three years.

And so that's another key element in terms of how a democratic process can support conflict resolution. So, there are many parties to this dispute, but in the meantime, we've got what could be a very dangerous return to humanitarian tragedy if we don't end up maintaining the security conditions and getting the food to the people in Darfur. So we have to focus on that while we're working on the political issues.

QUESTION: (Inaudible).

DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: Because I said, the U.S. government met with them in Oslo the day after that I was gone. And yes, we do have contacts, whether we have influence, I guess time will tell. But we're also working with others that we hope have influence, too.

QUESTION: (Inaudible).

DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: Think he didn't care we were in Iraq all day. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: (Inaudible).

DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: I'm sorry, you said, does it relate to the crisis in Darfur?


DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: Time will tell. There are a series of steps. And yes, it's related to the crisis in Darfur. You know, as I made very clear, that we want to try to work with the government, but, and we made some positive steps with the government. We've taken some modest moves in terms of trying to remove some travel restrictions. And as I said, to quote the first Vice President, the Foreign Minister, we have seen a change in Sudan's policies since 2001. We recognize that. Not the least of which was the very strong commitment for the North/South accord; and I want to underscore how important that accord is. But if we want to move to normalize relations, we need to try to deal with these problems together.


Released on April 14, 2005


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