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Volume 451: debated on Tuesday 31 October 2006

10. What assessment she has made of the effectiveness of United Nations policy and the resolutions of the UN Security Council on Darfur. (98358)

The UN is playing a critical role in efforts to resolve the appalling conflict. Successive Security Council resolutions have offered significant UN assistance, imposed sanctions, referred the situation to the International Criminal Court and underlined the consequences of non-compliance. Resolution 1706 mandating a UN force demonstrates the UN’s continued commitment to Darfur. We are pressing Sudan to accept the UN deployment, which remains the best opportunity to secure lasting peace.

In the late 1930s, the failure to take effective action against the Italian invasion of Abyssinia led to a complete loss of credibility for the League of Nations. The awful, complex situation in Sudan and Darfur is not the same, but what can the UK Government do, as a permanent member of the Security Council, to ensure that the UN, the only truly international peacekeeping show in town, maintains its credibility?

This is a test at least as pointed and severe as Rwanda and Srebrenica. We cannot afford another Srebrenica or Rwanda. The hon. Gentleman is therefore right. It seems to me that the challenge is not just to focus the eyes of the Security Council, although it would be good if all its permanent members were focused on resolving the issue, but to provide an example to the world of how the United Nations can act under difficult circumstances to rescue huge numbers of people from the most dreadful fate.

What discussions have we had with the Chinese Government about Darfur? Are not they the key to breaking the deadlock?

I would not agree with my hon. Friend that the Chinese Government are the single key, but there is no doubt that they are an important interlocutor. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and other Ministers have spoken frequently to the Chinese about the matter, and we will continue to do so. The Chinese play a very important role, and not just, incidentally, in relation to the amount of oil that they buy from Sudan, which is nevertheless an important variable in the equation.