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Robert B. Zoellick Press Conf. in Khartoum, Sudan

Press Conference in Khartoum, Sudan

Robert B. Zoellick, Deputy Secretary of State
Khartoum Hilton
Khartoum, Sudan
November 9, 2005

MODERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for joining us. Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick will give you a briefing on some of the events that happened today. He'll make some brief opening remarks and then he can take some of your questions. I believe we have a microphone stand to the left, so if you have any questions you will have to move to the microphone stand and ask your question. And if you could identify yourself and your news organization when you ask the question, we would appreciate it. Thank you.

Mr. Secretary.

DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: Thanks. Since I had the opportunity to speak at length to you in a speech that sought to explain the importance of regaining momentum for peace in Sudan through both the implementation of the CPA and the peace process in Darfur and then stated some specific suggestions, I won't repeat those items.

I will just mention that I was pleased that I had the opportunity here in Khartoum to have a meeting with President Bashir, with Vice President Taha, with a number of ministers of the SPLM and the Congress Party -- who together helped form the cabinet of the new National Government of Unity -- Jan Pronk, the UN's Special Representative and I also just had a meeting with an interfaith dialogue of religious leaders of Muslim and Christian in Sudan.

What I was trying to do in this visit is to combine trying to get a better sense of conditions in Sudan and insights about the situation and also share the U.S. perspective. Before coming to Sudan, I asked Vice President Taha to help us regain momentum by taking actions on the Assessment and Evaluation Commission and I'm pleased that the government was able to do that with Tom Vraalsen as the chair. I understand that Tom Vraalsen is supposed to be coming next week, so I hope that will keep attention focused on that -- the National Petroleum Commission.

And then while I was here, I was told by both the President and the Vice President that they have drafted legislation for the Joint Defense Board and to implement the joint units and that that will presented to the legislature next week. And I also appreciate the follow-through on my requests about the armored personnel carriers in Darfur and the violence against women and some of the other issues related to the camps because I think these will help build confidence.

President Bashir also was very clear with me about his commitment to the CPA process and about trying to achieve peace through the Abuja talks. Of course, there's a tremendous amount of work that lies ahead, but I was, as a matter of personal impression, was struck by a number of the questions that I received after delivering the speech at the University of Khartoum because I was struck by the presence of a growing civil society that wants to take part in an expanding political process and a growing democratic process -- that was only reinforced by the dialogue that I just finished with the religious leaders.

Tomorrow, my colleagues and I will head to Darfur where we'll be seeing conditions with our own eyes as I like to try to do to compare it with different reports that I receive. And in doing so, meet with the African Union, NGOs, some of the IDPs, visit one of the crisis centers we're creating for dealing with violence against women and see some of the recent areas of violence. And then I'll be going on to Juba, where the government of Southern Sudan is being formed, where as I've emphasized there is a dual key role, helping to create a sense of movement and potential in Southern Sudan, but also urging the Government of Southern Sudan to play an active role with the Government of National Unity.

There are, of course, many others that are playing roles in this larger process and here I want to thank Jan Pronk for his efforts. We talked about some things that he has in mind to try to do to use the next couple of weeks before the initiation of the Abuja peace process again to try to get the parties at a table and move for a negotiation and he is still pushing very hard to achieve substantive results by the end of the year.

So as I've said, all along the way, I think this is a critical time for both the CPA discussions in Darfur and Sudan in general. And I hope that coming out of this, we will have simulated some additional positive actions, but those are to be seen over the course of the coming weeks.

So happy to take your questions.

QUESTION: With the recent attacks on the AU, and especially the decision taken by the AU to engage combatants in one attack, do you feel that -- are you worried that they will be dragged into the conflict in Darfur?

And secondly, during the same attack, they ran out of ammunition and had to retreat, taking heavy losses. Is that also a worry that they're not properly equipped to do the mission in Darfur?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: Well,I had the opportunity yesterday to talk to two of the AU representatives. One of them, former Prime Minister Salim, who's leaving the negotiations, but also Ambassador Kingibe who's the special representative for Sudan. And I asked them about the AMIS forces and what else they felt that they needed, including this question of mandate that we both have been asked about a lot. And the answer I got was that they believe that the AU it is not really a question of words in mandate, it is a question of capabilities on the ground, recognizing that their role is a peacekeeping role. And so that's one reason in terms of capabilities I've pressed to try to get the armored personnel carriers in because that will give those forces substantially more protection, also give them more mobility.

I hadn't heard about a shortage of ammunition. That's something that I can check tomorrow to try to get a sense from the force commander who I'll meet tomorrow and see if they have -- feel they have a shortage in that.

As for your question about is it worrying that they'll be drawn into it more, I think they're at the heart of it right now and that's the nature of a peacekeeping mission. And as I've said on other occasions, peacekeeping mission is not the same as a peace enforcement mission. They are not there to engage in combat. They are supposed to be protecting a ceasefire and that means there's a responsibility on all the other parties to respect that ceasefire. That's why I made that point with the rebels very strongly yesterday. It's the point that I made with the government today and emphasized it has to be the case with the militias as well.

So we will see whether the situation quiets down, but that's the message I've been trying to deliver. And the other thing that I can try to help do to strengthen the AU capabilities, so they are able to handle the situations they run into.

QUESTION: Two questions. The first one, the rebel movements are fragmenting and the Sudanese Government seem either unwilling or unable to rein in the militia in Darfur. Why do you remain optimistic about the peace process here?

And the second question, this is your fourth visit this year to Sudan. Do you actually feel that they listen to what you say when you come here or are they just nod politely and then continue with what they were doing anyway?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: Well, let me take the second first. (Laughter.) It relates to your first one. I've tried to point out on this trip and others when I've urged parties to take action and when they have taken action, but I'll give you my own view of this is is that people are more likely to take action if they believe it is in their self-interest.

And so the heart of my message has been throughout that the Comprehensive Peace Accord was negotiated by Sudanese with a recognition of their own interest. And I think that was driven by a very calculated interest. I think it was driven by an interest that a war with the South was not producing anything but additional losses and casualties, that neither side was going to have a victory on the field of battle and that the danger that it did to Sudan in terms of the international community is very high and that's what I think led -- plus some skillful leadership on both sides -- to that peace accord. I believe those conditions that strategic context holds.

Now, it is a fact of life when you lose a leader like John Garang, who played such a key role in this process, that it is going to throw people off. And I think some of the first signs of what parties' response was done by both the SPLM and the government when they tried to deal with what were the initial outbreaks of violence in Khartoum and elsewhere as people were frightened about what this meant and they worried about John Garang's death.

But as I've said to them, that from some perspectives, a lapse of a month or two may not have that much of a sense of delay, but in my view, it raises fears and anxieties and lack of commitment. So I've pressed on some actions. And so you can be your judge yourself, but people did move on the Assessment and Evaluation Commission, which I have emphasized is important because we'll have outsiders here that will be watching this point -- the National Petroleum Commission.

I was told today also that they did set up the boundary commission, but I haven't seen the formal documentation yet. But having said that, one reason why I guess I keep coming back is because you have to keep pressing implementation of these points. That's not just me -- I know Vraalsen will play this role, the Assessment Evaluation Commission, Pronk.

And I think one good news is while I'm here representing the United States, I don't see an inch of difference with messages being conveyed the UN, the African Union, the Europeans and others and that's good -- going back to that strategic point -- because I think, as a couple people have mentioned to me, I think -- and this is a point that Pronk has observed -- Sudan also realizes there's things changing in the world. And it has a opportunity to get part of the global network or be excluded from it. And the world is sending a very strong message about the possibilities to get help and development -- development of its oil and energy resources or it can be excluded. And so I think that, again, is a case of self-interest. So you know, on some of these you get more progress than others.

Obviously, I'm disappointed that after a movement down in violence that violence broke out in Darfur again. So that's one reason, on the phone and here, I've been emphasizing to people that's it's a very dangerous and risky situation. People need to take steps -- partly an answer to the other questions -- to arm the AU to be able to deal with it. But fundamentally, stop breaking the ceasefire and that's for all parties that are involved in the process.

Now, your first question was, oh, you said "optimistic" --

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: I didn't use the term "optimistic," you did. So you could've asked that, but you didn't. (Laughter.) But let me say this: Look, I think the whole world has been shocked by the brutality and tragedy for those people in Darfur. And I think my country and others wants to do what it can to help. What I've described to people is I think there's three mechanisms -- the humanitarian help and on this I try to follow very closely and the reports that I have is that the food supplies to meet people's basic needs are available for the next few months and we have to keep that food pipeline going. The second is the security situation, which deals with your third question. The third is the peace process, about trying to move that forward.

And I can't tell you here today whether that will move forward. All I can tell you is everything that I'm trying to do to make it occur and trying to push the various parties, but one of my other messages here, whether it be with the SLM yesterday or the government or at the speech was, the Sudanese must ultimately be responsible for Sudan's problems. Neither America nor the UN or anybody else can solve all these things. We can help. We can support. We can try to deal with crisis. We can share the benefit of our experience. But my sense is is that this is the best way we can try to help people that are in terrible circumstances and try to give an opportunity for the future of Sudan.

And on this, I will say, whenever I do come back to Khartoum and I have a chance to talk to people, not just in the government but outside, I get a sense of how important that is to people. I don't know if you were in the audience when people were asking their questions at the university, but you get a sense of -- some of those people, I found out later, were opposition politicians and they weren't part of the CPA process but they -- the reason we were getting the questions about the election and democracy was they knew the elections were there four years out and they want to make sure that people hold to that.

Your heart goes out to people like that. You want to try to help. They're trying to make something very, very different here but it's not an easy process to do. So, you know, all I -- I partly look at these issues of trying to increase the probabilities and I can't determine the final odds but I can try to increase the probabilities and that's why I keep coming back to try to do that.

Any others? Yes.

QUESTION: I think there is a contradiction of the American stance in Sudan. You're pressing Sudan to move forward on this while you renew the sanction against Sudan. So what do you comment on this?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: Well, I'll tell you what I also mentioned to the government officials that raised this. Some of the sanctions trace back to the killing of two million people in North-South conflict. Some of them relate to issues of terrorism because people here housed Usama bin Laden -- that wasn't my choice. And third, some of it relates to the massive killings and genocide in Darfur. That's a deep hole to dig oneself out. And yet I do think there has been a recognition -- it may not be a change of heart -- a recognition of change of interest that is represented by the Comprehensive Peace Accord.

And so what I have tried to do is offer a pathway by which the United States can help while recognizing that there's not going to be any fundamental change on sanctions until you see a fundamental change, not just of words on agreement but follow-through.

So what does that mean? Well, my country has devoted about $2 billion to Sudan over the course of the past two years. Now, much of that is of humanitarian aid; only modest amounts of development assistance. I wish more could go to development assistance but until people stop killing each other here, then somebody has to feed those that are displaced and that's what my country is doing for the people of Sudan, along with others, but we're doing about half of the world's amount.

Second, I've tried to emphasize areas that I think are particularly tragic for the people of Sudan and have particular resonance internationally. So one of those is the violence against women because not only the accounts that you read but when I've been out there and seen what women have encountered, your heart has to go out to people who suffered more than you could believe anyone could endure. So we're trying to help by putting together centers for violence against women.

We also proposed to the government steps that they could take and they've agreed to take. And the reason why that was important was it was a sign in that we changed the listing of Sudan in the Trafficking in Persons Report with the idea that this would create incentive for the Government of Sudan to follow through on these actions and we'll review them in four months.

Now, as you probably know, not everybody in the United States agrees with that. They think that that was too flexible but I think it's worthwhile to try to press the government and see if we can take these actions on those points.

Another one that I've discussed today with the government and discussed with Salva Kiir is that we've talked about the withdrawal of forces from Juba and also the need to bring the IDPs -- some of the displaced people back to Juba. The train system is all broken down and people need more parts. So I've suggested if Salva Kiir and the SPLM and the government here can get together and outline a plan to help pull those troops out and bring the IDP back, then they give me something to work with in terms of providing exceptions for the spare parts.

I mention these as examples because I want to try to be supportive of the process but as I've said, whether it be with the government or rebels, people need to help me help them. And they need to follow through on these actions. And if doing so, I think the best indication I can give of our continued interest is I was talking to some of the government officials today, I was recalling I haven't been to any other country this year four times. I haven't even been to New York four times. So obviously, it's of some interest to the United States and that's why I keep trying to be specific each step along the way about what will move the process forward.

So I do not believe there's a contradiction. I think there's a pathway and it's up to the people in Sudan to choose whether they're going to walk that pathway.

It's nothing against New York, by the way.

QUESTION: What is the reason for such sudden interest in Sudan by you -- United States of America? Where was this interest during the 20 years of war? Thank you.

DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: Well, I don't think it's been sudden in that shortly after President Bush took office, he designated Senator Danforth as a special emissary on his behalf. And my understanding of that recent history and certainly that that is told to me by others here in Khartoum was that Senator Danforth and his team played an important role with the SPLM and the Government in Khartoum in reaching that accord.

Tragically, just as they were reaching that accord, violence broke out in Darfur and the United States has tried to respond with others by meeting the basic human needs and supporting the African Union and security and supplementing it. For example, one of my first trips as Deputy Secretary of State was -- I stopped in NATO and talked about trying to bring the NATO support.

So as a government -- and I can only speak for this Administration -- we've been actively involved and will continue to be actively involved. For prior periods, I'll just say that the cause of the South is one that I know has generated interest in the United States throughout that period because of the nature of the conflict. That's why the achievement of peace is something that we also have to give credit for the authors in that CPA because it's quite a historic accomplishment and that's why it's all the more important that people proceed with its implementation and achieve a complementary effort in Darfur.

MODERATOR: I think we have time for one more.

QUESTION: (Via interpreter) My first question pertains -- what do we expect -- what do we expect with respect to the diplomatic representation between Sudan and the United States? Are you going to bolster it and then move it upward?

And before entering the pressroom, we had met the family of the journalist, Sami, he has captured in Guantanamo and we -- they were asking and demanding from Mr. Zoellick to release him. Did you discuss the situation of the Sudanese captured in Guantanamo about the fate with the Sudanese officials?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: As for your second question, the answer is no. And as for your first question about diplomatic representation, we have had chargés here and for many years we didn't have any representation. And most recently, we've sent one of our most experienced ambassadors -- he's formerly Ambassador to South Africa, Cameron Hume. And we are expanding our diplomatic presence as part of our support for the CPA and the peace process. So we have our aid mission here and I'll be announcing the opening of a consulate in Juba where we will expand both the aid and the support for the Government of Southern Sudan as part of a unified Sudan. And beyond that, it depends in part on whether we can take other steps to follow through on the items that I've outlined today.

MODERATOR: Thank you.


Released on November 10, 2005


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