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R. Zoellick With African Union Commission Chair

Remarks Before Meeting With the Chair of the African Union Commission

Robert Zoellick, Deputy Secretary of State; Alpha Oumar Konare, Chairperson of the African Union Commission

Washington, DC
April 14, 2006

(9:15 a.m. EDT)

DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: Well, Mr. President, let me welcome you and say how much I appreciate having a chance to meet with you. We consider the African Union to be a very good partner and we very much appreciated our work with President Konare. He's been a good friend to the United States from his time when he was President of Mali and he's done a superb job in strengthening the capabilities of the African Union.

We had a chance to meet in Paris in March and we're going to follow up on some of those items today. The African Union has been playing a very fundamental role in Sudan. The African Union forces, military forces, the AMIS mission have been acting with great courage and doing a tremendous job in Darfur. I've had a chance to visit most of their military sections. But in addition, Former Prime Minister Salim of Tanzania has been playing a critical role as the mediator in Abuja for the peace talks. So I appreciate the chance to meet with President Konare, so we can talk about ways to strengthen the AMIS mission. We want to follow up on the African Union's Peace and Security Council decision of March about transitioning to a UN force.

In the -- both African Union and the UN have talked about how to try to draw help from others and other regional organizations to try to strengthen the capability to deal with the tragedy and help the people in Darfur. But I think we also all recognize that the humanitarian and security operations can only be a holding action and we must work for this peace agreement in Abuja. And we've both been in touch with officials in Khartoum, as well as the rebels on trying to do that.

And finally, given the events in Chad where I know the President was recently, I want to get his perspective on what we can try to do to stop any danger to the government, but also urge the government to move forward with an inclusive political process. So again, I want to thank the President. He's been a good partner. He gives excellent counsel. He's a very wise leader and we consider ourselves fortunate to have him as a friend.

PRESIDENT KONARE: [Via interpreter] Mr. Secretary, I'm the one who ought to thank you for your invitation to come here, for taking the time and welcoming me here. And I also want to extend our thanks to the whole American team who's been working side by side with us. And this help has been noticed in all areas and feels that especially when it comes to Sudan and Darfur, how many times Secretary -- Deputy Secretary has come to all those areas.

And Deputy Secretary, I want to thank you for this and I also want to say that you have presented an accurate view of the work that has been done by African forces in this area. We think it is an African responsibility that we will take and continue to work. We need to reach quickly an agreement, a political settlement in Abuja. And our brothers in Sudan on the government side and the rebel side must really commit to this end. And we must at all prices avoid any possible influence from the actual situation in Chad now influenced on the situation in Sudan.

And I know I can absolutely count on the support of the U.S. Government for that and the support of the whole international community as well especially in this transitional phase to arrange -- the United Nations is taking a more and more important role. And I would like to reassure, Mr. Deputy Secretary we are totally available to continue to make progress because Darfur and Sudan are very important to us. And if you think about more than just the situation in the continent, the whole continent of Africa is really involved in this. And we'll be stepping up to the plate and as far as that's concerned. No doubt about that. And thank you very much for your support because I know it will always be there.


Released on April 14, 2006


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