The UK holds regular discussions with the UN and US, as well as with other UN Security Council partners, about all of these issues. We continue to consider, along with our Security Council partners, any action which may help resolve the conflict in Darfur.
The north-eastern province of Vakaga in the Central African Republic has increasingly been used as both a conduit and base for Sudanese and Chadian rebel groups, over the last eight months. This has created further instability. Central African Republic rebel groups have become increasingly active within this region, capturing three towns within Vakaga during November, and in the north-west of the country. The Central African Republic’s armed forces, assisted by forces from the French and FOMUC, the EU-funded African peace mission, have now stabilised the Vakaga region, although the situation remains tense.
We press the Government of Sudan regularly on the need for a viable ceasefire in Darfur, and to stop supporting Chadian rebel groups. We have pressed both the Chad and Sudan Governments to fulfil their obligations under the Tripoli agreement, and will continue to do so. Officials from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office met with the Chadian ambassador on 20 November and raised our concerns over the security situation in both Chad and the Central African Republic, particularly in the border regions.
We also continue to raise our concerns over the situation in the Central African Republic through the EU and the UN. The UN is expected to report shortly on prospects for a mission in Chad and the Central African Republic, as mandated under UN Security Council Resolution 1706.
Since signature of the Darfur Peace Agreement in May 2006, we have been in regular contact with the Government of Sudan, Minni Minnawi and the non-signatory rebel groups. We are pressing for an immediate and strengthened ceasefire; a process to secure the support of the non-signatory groups for the agreement; and an effective peacekeeping operation. The international community and the Government of Sudan agreed a way forwardon these issues at the Addis Ababa meeting on16 November, which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development attended. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister telephoned President Bashir on 22 November to urge him to accept this package, which has since been endorsed by the Peace and Security Council of the African Union. We continue to call on him to do so. We remain committed to finding a peaceful resolution to this appalling conflict.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development attended a high-level meeting on the future of the African Union (AU) Mission in Sudan (AMIS) in Addis Ababa on16 November. The meeting agreed that the UN should provide a light support package followed by a heavy support package to AMIS. The meeting agreed that this would be the precursor to the force becoming a joint AU/UN operation, with a substantial increase in the number of personnel. These conclusions were accepted by the AU Peace and Security Council at its meeting on 30 November. My right hon. Friendthe Prime Minister telephoned President Bashir on22 November to encourage him to work with the international community in implementing the outcome of the Addis and Abuja meetings. We continue to call on him to do so. And we will remain in regular contact with other nations and with the UN on the issue.
During a press conference on27 November in Khartoum, President Bashir denied reports of starvation in Darfur and claimed that the number of those killed by fighting to date in Darfur was less than 9,000.
The UN Humanitarian Co-ordinator Jan Egeland estimates that up to four million people in Darfur are dependent on food aid. The most commonly quoted estimate of numbers killed in the conflict in Darfur is 200,000. However, the exact figure is unlikely ever to be known.
The UN-appointed International Commission of Inquiry concluded in January last year that the Sudanese Government had not pursued a policy of genocide. But it found that grave violations of human rights and war crimes had been committed by all sides. The Commission also concluded that individuals may have had genocidal intent. It will be for the International Criminal Court to decide whether there is sufficient evidence to warrant prosecutions for genocide.
We are very concerned about the current situation in Chad. We assess that it is fuelled partly by cross-border interference from Sudan. We continue to call on both the Government of Sudan and the Government of Chad to stop supporting each other’s rebels and to fulfil their obligations under the Tripoli Agreement. A UN Assessment Mission travelled to Chad from 28 November to 3 December to look at what the UN could do to improve security in refugee camps and border areas. We are pressing the UN Secretary-General to report back quickly with options for an international presence in the Chad/Darfur border region.
Foreign and Commonwealth Office Officials met with the Chadian Ambassador on20 November and raised our concerns over the security situation in Chad and the stability of the region as a whole.
We press the Government of Sudan regularly on the need for a viable ceasefire in Darfur and to stop supporting Chadian rebel groups. We also continueto urge both the Government of Chad and the Government of Sudan to fulfil their obligations under the Tripoli Agreement and respect each other’s borders.
There is an EU embargo on the sale of arms to Sudan. There is no such UN embargo. China, Russia and Belarus are among the major suppliers of arms and military equipment to Sudan.
There is, however, a UN arms embargo on Darfur. The UN Sanctions Panel of Experts, who monitorthe embargo, has stated that a significant number of weapons continue to enter Darfur from the rest of Sudan and from neighbouring countries, particularly from Chad. The Panel continues to investigate the identity of who is responsible.
The UK is committed to achieving more effective implementation of the embargo. We strongly supported the recent strengthening of the Panel of Experts; and are working to bolster the African Union Mission in Darfur. We continue to consider with Security Council partners what further action may be necessary.
The UK pushed for a strong result on Darfur at the Human Rights Council. The EU tabled a resolution which called, among other things, on all parties to assist in bringing to justice those responsible for grave crimes under international law, and for the Human Rights Commissioner to report follow-up at the Human Rights Council in March 2007. However, the resolution on Sudan adopted by the Council on 28 November was unacceptably weak. The UK subsequently played an active role in securing an emergency session of the Human Rights Council on Darfur, to be held on 12 December, where we will push for an expert human rights assessment mission to the region.
Chapter VIII of the UN Charter deals with regional arrangements relating to the maintenance of international peace and security and provides for the continued existence of such arrangements provided they are consistent with the purposes and principles of the UN.
It authorises the Security Council to utilise in appropriate cases regional arrangements or agencies for enforcement action under its authority. However, unless the Security Council authorises action under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, the consent of the Government of Sudan will be required for any such deployment.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development attended a high-level meeting chaired by the Secretary-General of the UN on the future of the African Union (AU) Mission in Sudan (AMIS) in Addis Ababa on 16 November. The meeting agreed deployment of UN light and heavy support packages to AMIS as the precursor to the force becoming a joint AU/UN operation. These conclusions were accepted by the AU Peace and Security Council at its meeting on 30 November. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister telephoned President Bashir on 22 November to urge him to accept this package. We continue to call on him to do so. We remain in regular contact with other nations and with the UN on the issue.