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Volume 450: debated on Wednesday 25 October 2006

We are all concerned about the humanitarian situation in Darfur. As I saw during my visit to Sudan last week, the UN and non-governmental organisations are doing an excellent job, but they are stretched by the sheer scale of needs, and some people cannot be reached because of the banditry and insecurity. That is why I urged President Bashir to stop the fighting, implement the Darfur peace agreement and accept a UN peacekeeping force.

I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. It is clear, as he indicated, that vital humanitarian aid is not reaching—[Interruption.]

Because of the security situation, vital humanitarian aid is not reaching the victims of genocidal attacks by the janjaweed and by Sudanese Government forces. As an interim step, before the UN peacekeeping force stage that the Secretary of State mentioned, can the British Government strengthen the African Union mission in that country?

That is precisely what we have been doing. We were the first country to provide financial support to the African Union mission. We have given £52 million—spent and pledged—and provided vehicles and support for their fuel contract, but I agree that there is a substantial need to ensure that the mission is further strengthened as we continue to put the case for a UN mission.

Is not it clear that the Sudanese Government will not accept a UN force in Darfur and that the best approach would be to beef up significantly the African Union force, which for all its difficulties is there on the ground? What further steps is the Secretary of State taking with his international colleagues to ensure that the deployment of and the funding for the additional 4,000 AU troops already agreed at the recent AU peace and security council meeting takes place as quickly as possible?

The first thing is to make sure that we pay the money that we have promised, and I urge others in the international community who made pledges to do the same. The indication at the moment, is that there is enough funding for the AU mission to see it through to the end of the year, but the hon. Gentleman is right that the priority is to ensure that the African Union mission in Sudan is able to do its job more effectively, while we continue to make the case for the ultimate solution, which is a UN mission.

As this humanitarian emergency has spread across international borders, with 2 million people having been made homeless and receiving inadequate protection, should we not press the case for the no-fly zone that was set up by the UN in 2004, but which has not, so far, been implemented? As for those involved in perpetrating the genocide, 49 of whom have been indicted to face charges in the International Criminal Court in The Hague, if they step outside Sudan, should they not face charges of crimes against humanity?

I agree completely that those who have committed crimes against humanity and war crimes should be brought to account, and that is why the British Government fought very hard to ensure that what happened in Darfur was referred to the International Criminal Court. On the second point, we will have to consider all the options, and what we do will depend on the security situation. I should tell the House and the hon. Gentleman that the single most significant step that could be taken to bring the conflict to an end would be for those who did not sign the Darfur peace agreement in Abuja in May to meet around the negotiating table—the Government of Sudan should be there, as well as Minni Mannawi, who did sign—because, as we have seen in the past two weeks, an agreement signed with the eastern front will, I hope, bring the conflict in that part of Sudan to an end. The same must happen in Darfur, if all the people in those camps are to be able to go home.