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Sudan

Volume 450: debated on Tuesday 24 October 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if she will make a statement on the outcome of the recent AMIS Conference on Darfur in Brussels. (87552)

The African Union (AU) mission to Darfur (AMIS) has played a vital role in efforts to resolve this appalling conflict. It urgently needs additional funding to carry on its critical work and the AU therefore convened a Donors' Conference in Brussels on 18 July. The UK reaffirmed its pledge of £20 million for AMIS for this financial year, in addition to pressing others to follow suit. The AU are still finalising the final figure on total pledges received at the conference, but the EU estimate it was at least US$186 million. This is welcome, enabling AMIS to continue to operate until the end of the year (the AU Peace and Security Council have extended AMIS' operations until then). We are urging those who have pledged funding to deliver the funds and will intervene again with others to contribute more should this be required.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (1) what recent assessment she has made of the level of sexual violence in Darfur; (93519)

(2) what recent discussions she has had with the Government of Sudan about tackling sexual violence in Darfur.

There are credible reports of increased incidents of sexual violence and rape committed by all sides in Darfur. These attacks occur most frequently where there is an increased presence of armed militia and a suspension of patrols by the African Union (AU) monitoring mission.

We utterly condemn these appalling acts of violence, and have made this abundantly clear to the Government of Sudan and also to the rebel movements. Together with our international partners, we are pressing all sides to stop the fighting; to agree to the deployment of a UN force in Darfur; to co-operate in bolstering the AU in the interim; to commit to and implement the Darfur Peace Agreement; and to ensure full humanitarian access for the UN and non-governmental organisations in Darfur.

Women are particularly vulnerable to attack when they leave the camps to collect firewood. So we are strongly urging the AU to resume its firewood patrols for women leaving the camps. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development raised this with the AU Force Commander when he visited Darfur on 16 October. We hope that increased UN assistance to the AU mission will enhance its capacity to carry out these regular patrols.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps she is taking to find a political solution to the conflict in Darfur. (95071)

The solution to this terrible conflict is the Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA). We are pressing all parties to implement it. During his visit to Khartoum on 16 October, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development urged the Government of Sudan to stop the fighting, to resume dialogue and to commit to a political process which ends the conflict permanently. We will maintain this pressure on the Government and rebels.

The second vital component in a solution is the international capacity to help keep and maintain the peace. It is widely agreed a UN force is required. The Sudanese Government now need to accept their deployment. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development raised this with President Bashir and we are in constant contact with our international partners to ensure unified pressure.

In the meantime the African Union's Mission in Sudan (AMIS) force is playing a critical role. It needs to be strengthened with further funding and other support including financial and logistical support by the UN as set out in UN Security Council Resolution 1706; support to AMIS' DPA Implementation Cell; and support to the AU's Darfur-Darfur Dialogue and Consultation Process. We have provided AMIS with £32 million and pledged a further £20 million for this financial year. We are working with EU partners to ensure increased support.