As the Security Council met today in closed session on the situation in Sudan’s strife-torn Darfur region, a senior United Nations envoy told reporters that the parties must cease all fighting and improve conditions for the delivery of relief aid in order to facilitate the political process.
Jan Eliasson, who was in Sudan last month on a joint diplomatic mission with Salim Ahmed Salim of the African Union (AU), pointed out that both the Government as well as non-signatories to last year’s Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA) said that there is no military solution to the conflict.
“We have met with understanding on pushing this process forward,” he said. “The Government has indicated a willingness to have negotiated amendments to the DPA and is not taking a ‘take it or leave it attitude’; on the other hand they don’t want a renegotiation of the DPA.”
Mr. Eliasson stressed the need for urgent action on the ground. “This is a political process but we also expect results now from the parties to prove their political will. If they say there’s no military solution, if they say that they want to go on with a political process they have to prove this point by first of all reducing the level of violence, in fact achieve a cessation of hostilities. And the second point is that they have to improve the security and humanitarian situation on the ground.”
The envoy welcomed the fact that there have been no bombings since he and Mr. Salim left Sudan in mid-February. “We made it very clear that continued bombardments would not be consistent with the political process.”
At the same time, he cautioned that the violence remains a serious problem. “The fighting goes on in a different aspect though, which I find very disturbing, and that is there is a growing tribal warfare which has little to do – if anything – with the Government and the signatories and more to do with the differences between different tribes in Darfur. That is a growing problem.”
The negotiators pressed the parties to improve conditions for humanitarian operations. A former UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, Mr. Eliasson said, “I know the humanitarian workers and I sense the deep fatigue, deep sense of frustration in that community. They have been working enormously hard. The operation, he added, is beset by problems of access and insecurity.
“The situation is still fragile, is still difficult, and we expect improvement of the situation on the ground both by efforts from the Government and the non-signatory movements.”
The Darfur fighting “is a regional problem,” he said, emphasizing that the importance of the Security Council’s involvement in this connection. “It is growing into a regional conflict. We see great flows of refugees into Chad, we see unfortunately movements of people from across the border who feed the conflict, and I think the relationship between Chad and Sudan is going to be absolutely crucial for us to find a political solution to the problem of Darfur.”
The borders drawn up by the colonial powers in the 19th century “do not correspond to the tribal lines, the clan lines, the ethnic lines of Sudan,” he noted.
Negotiators would be in touch with regional actors – not just Chad but also Libya, Egypt and Eritrea, Mr. Eliasson said.
The United Nations is still awaiting a response from the Government of Sudan on the proposed “heavy support package” for the AU-UN hybrid force in Darfur. Mr. Eliasson said efforts were made this morning to reach the country’s ambassador, adding that the Sudanese “have accepted in principle” the expanded deployment, which calls for about 17,000 troops and 3,000 police officers.
Ambassador Dumisani Kumalo of South Africa, which holds the Security Council’s rotating presidency, said consensus emerged in the closed meeting on a number of issues. “Every member who spoke is concerned about the humanitarian situation in Sudan, and everybody who spoke expects the letter from Sudan.” Some, he added, are more frustrated than others about the wait for Khartoum’s response.
Hédi Annabi, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, added, “Our understanding is that Sudan has accepted the three-phased approach as a package,” referring to the stages leading to the deployment of the full AU-UN hybrid force.