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Strengthening Peace Efforts in Sudan

Strengthening Peace Efforts in Sudan

Robert B. Zoellick, Deputy Secretary; Javier Solana, High Representative for
Common Foreign and Security Policy
Press Availability at European Council
Brussels, Belgium
March 8, 2006

High Representative Solana: As for me it is a great pleasure to be here with the Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick. He is a friend of mine for many, many years, and it is a pleasure to get together again working for the same aims, the same objectives. We have done it today, the whole day. It's been a long day. As you know, we started very early in the morning - you saw me coming in.

But I think it has been a very productive day. We have been dealing with a very important topic, an issue which concerns the international community, which is Sudan, Darfur. We have met here with President Konaré from the African Union, as you have seen. Deputy President Taha from the Government of Sudan, and with the representative of Mr. Kofi Annan, the deputy of peacekeeping operations, who has also been with us today. And, of course, Mr. Robert Zoellick and myself.

I think if I were to tell you three things, I would say. The atmosphere has been very constructive and very good. So I think we have made some progress today. On the deep and more important issues, I would also like to make three comments. One, we would like, as President Konaré has asked us, to see if we can in the coming days, this period of time, to help the African Union to reinforce and to continue to do the job they are doing in Darfur. Number two, we would like very much to give an impulse, and I think from today can come an impulse to the Abuja talks. We are going to try to construct a roadmap with benchmarks, dates, etc., the responsibilities of everyone so the Abuja talks may bring solutions in the foreseeable future, in a short period of time. Number three, as you know the African Union is going to have a meeting tomorrow and the day after tomorrow on the possibility of doing a transfer of responsibilities from the African Union to the United Nations.

We hope very much that, though that decision will not be implemented in a long period of time, five months, six months, seven months, it is very important. The United Nations starts to do the planning, the analysis of the different theaters, the different possibilities and we will support that and we hope that that will be a decision that will be taken by the African Union. All that we think is a very important package that will help to try to find a solution to the conflict in Darfur that has been with us for a longer period of time than we would ever wanted to have. So, therefore, I hope very much that today has been, we hope there will be an important inflection point in the curve of the evolution of the situation in Darfur for the better. And, again, for me it is a pleasure that I have my good friend Robert Zoellick here, working together once again on something that, at the end of the day, will make this world a better place. We have been arrayed for many years working together - and today is another occasion to continue that. Thank you very much.

Deputy Secretary Zoellick: Let me just start by thanking my good friend Javier and Commissioner Louis Michel for taking the initiative to bring this group together. It's an excellent time. The issues are ones that are at key points. When I had talked with Javier a month or two ago about this possibility, I was very pleased that he has taken the initiative, and his colleagues with the Commission and also a number of the Member States have helped produce some extraordinary U.S.-EU cooperation, also some other European partners like Norway.

I am in full agreement with the three points that Javier put forward. On the first, one of the items that we have discussed is that we very much appreciate the role of the approximately 7,000 African Union mission forces, the AMIS force. They went in as a rapid reaction force. I've had a chance to visit their operations and meet their commanders in a number of different parts of Darfur. They've done a tremendous job. However, as the African Union Peace and Security Council recognized early in January, circumstances are changing and they need additional assistance. So, as Javier mentioned, we, the United States -- and I'm going on to see the Secretary General of NATO to talk about some possibilities that can be provided there -- and the European Union, we need to help them be able to strengthen that operation.

The second part also, is an area where the African Union has played a key role in leading to try to find a peace solution. And what all of us emphasized was that the security operations by themselves will not be sufficient. We have to reach a peace accord. The mediation has been led by Salim Salim, of Tanzania, whom I will be able to see Friday in Paris, to try to see whether we can move that process forward with dispatch. And then the European Union, the United States and others, all the Perm 5, worked together based on the January African Union Peace and Security Council statement. We have a presidency statement to start the preparation for a UN mission in Darfur. There is, as you know, already a UN mission in the south of Sudan, so this is not a new venture. Given our close working relationship with the AU, as Javier mentioned, the decision that the African Union is teeing up in a couple of days will be important to try to keep that process moving forward and we very much encourage them to take that step.

I will also just mention that late tonight I will be heading on to Paris, where there is a conference on which, again, we are working very closely with the European Union - this one is sponsored by the World Bank - for the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Accord, the North-South accord that Vice President Taha who was with us today and the late John Garang helped accomplish. We are very pleased that Senator Jack Danforth was one of the key mediators in that. But we also have to push that process further along, and that includes some of the financial assistance that we put forward. Over the course of these three days, in Brussels and Paris, I hope through those sessions and in the individual meetings I have with Africans and particularly with some of the Sudanese officials to be able to advance the process that Javier mentioned. I'd like to just close by saying that he was a very skillful chairman, as he always is, in terms of trying to sharpen the focus and I very much appreciate the initiative he has taken, because I know he has a lot on his plate.

Question: Mr. Solana, you mentioned the possibility to help the African Union in the short term, I mean before UN transfer. Could you elaborate a bit more on what the EU could do?

High Representative Solana: I can elaborate, but not in great detail, because the commissioner from the African Union, Mr. Djinnit, who is the one in charge of security, was in Africa and was not with the president of the African Union. But we will be ready to answer in a positive manner the demands that he will make to us. We know fairly well what will be the type of demands he will make - more support on logistics, more support in vehicles. Things of that nature will be very important for them and we will try to answer in a positive manner.

Question: I have a question for Mr. Zoellick. After the meeting of today, do the United States and the European Union put aside the option of suggesting or proposing UN forces to be sent there - or are you convinced by the explanation given by Mr. Taha today?

Deputy Secretary Zoellick: First, and it's a point I should have mentioned in the opening statement. It is important to keep in mind that what drives the U.S. and European Union attention is the condition of the people in Darfur - and all of Sudan. We have to keep that in mind as we talk about one organization or another organization. You've got a couple of million people in camps. Incredible numbers have died, and the situation remains very dangerous and terrible. Women and children are in the worst situation and are sometimes the saddest victims of this process. Because of that, as Javier mentioned, we believe that the UN process needs to continue to move forward. I'll speak here for the United States and Javier can speak for the European Union. The request that we received from the AU in January, from the Peace and Security Council, about starting the preparation for a UN peacekeeping mission is one that we promptly acted on and worked when we held the presidency of the UN in early February to move forward. We hope that the African Union Peace and Security Council meeting will then request the UN to take the next steps in this preparation. At the same time, what we talked about with Vice President Taha and President Konaré is that that element needs to be combined with the other points that Javier mentioned - moving forward the Abuja peace process. I mentioned some of the things that I hope to do over the next couple of days to advance that and the Government of National Unity is trying to come up with some ideas to move that forward. Also, we need to strengthen the African Union force, which we believe should be the core of any UN force. Since there would be a time before any UN force could take the field, we also need to strengthen the African Union force in the meantime.

Question: There appears to be significant antagonism on the ground towards the idea of a UN force. Are you prepared to push forward the idea of a UN force, given the opposition that there seems to be?

High Representative Solana: I think that the decision of the African Union will be taken in a few days from today. We will support that. We hope that decision will be positive and that it will be done in a constructive manner vis-à-vis the Government of Sudan. The Government of Sudan should not have anything against the United Nations. Every country of the international community should have a positive approach vis-à-vis the United Nations. I don't think that will create a basic problem, even with the Government of Sudan.

Deputy Secretary Zoellick: And just to add to that, when you talk about opposition. I've been to Darfur four times and the people there, I can assure you, do not oppose additional security and the conditions for them to be able to survive. Second, as both Javier and I mentioned, you have a UN force, UNMIS, that is already in Sudan in the North-South area, so there is not at least a principled objection. And some of the Sudanese representatives can speak for themselves, but on other occasions they have said to me that they don't oppose a UN force in principle. They are relating it to the Abuja peace process, and I hope that the emphasis that the two of us and others have given them about our commitment to moving forward the Abuja peace process will enable us to move forward together.

Question: If I understand correctly, the U.S. is in favor of giving responsibility to the UN, plus the African Union. So, I am wondering, first, if the Sudanese government refused this, do you have a different scenario? Second, do you see that the African Union is capable to do the work alone, or not at all?

Deputy Secretary Zoellick: On the first part, one of the reasons it was very helpful for Javier to bring the parties together is that we hope that the Sudanese government will not resist. We hope that the African Union, of which it is a member, will take the additional step. And we hope that the Sudanese government will recognize how this is in its interest to end the violence to its people and make sure that the situation provides security, not only for humanitarian support today, but for implementing the peace agreement. So, if we push for a peace agreement, we will ultimately have to create the conditions for people to return home and that's what part of this force could do.

As for your second question, we believe the AMIS mission has done a tremendous job. I think it can be enhanced with some of the things that Javier mentioned - in terms of logistics, intelligence, communications, some of the planning functions. We've had discussions with the Nigerian commander and the Rwandan deputy commander with some ideas on how to do that, so there are things we could do of that nature. But one also has to recognize that this area of Darfur is the size of France. Imagine having 7,000 people trying to assure security in a situation where the cease-fire has broken down. We believe that the African Union has played a role, will continue to play a key role in security and mediation, but also needs our help and that's where we think we can provide from the U.S. and EU, but also through the UN.

Released on March 8, 2006

ENDS


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