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Sudan: Armed Conflict

Volume 474: debated on Wednesday 2 April 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment his Department has made of the viability of introducing a no-fly zone in regions of the Sudan; and if he will make a statement. (196908)

We rule nothing out but we are not currently proposing a no-fly zone for Darfur. We assess that a no-fly zone would restrict essential humanitarian operations and be a major logistical challenge due to the size of Darfur and the lack of available air assets. The UN-African Union Mission in Darfur is mandated to monitor military activity, including flights prohibited by UN Security Council Resolution 1591. We continue to push for its rapid and effective deployment.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment his Department has made of the implications of fighting in southern Sudan between the armed forces of Southern Sudan and the Misseriya since late November 2007; and if he will make a statement. (197038)

We are aware of clashes between units of the Sudan People's Liberation Army and armed elements of the Misseriya tribes in Southern Sudan, and that the UN Mission in Sudan personnel are mediating to end the fighting. We continue to press both the Government of National Unity and the Government of Southern Sudan to deal with the root causes of these clashes and deliver basic services.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports he has received on the willingness of (a) the government of Sudan, (b) the Sudanese Liberation Army, (c) the Justice and Equality Movement, (d) other rebel groups and (e) the Janjaweed in Darfur to reach a political solution to the civil war; and if he will make a statement. (197169)

The African Union and UN Special Envoys assess that there are five main rebel groups in Darfur: the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), the United Resistance Front (URF) and three factions of the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM/Abdel Wahid, SLM/Abdel Shafie and SLM/Unity). Of these, SLM/Unity and the URF have publicly stated their readiness to participate in political talks, whereas the other three have yet to do so. The Special Envoys are currently talking to all these groups to encourage them to unify and agree common platforms for negotiations with the government of Sudan. The envoys will return to Sudan on 7 April to continue this process and we have urged them to intensify contacts with the movements.

We welcome the government of Sudan's public commitment to attend further political talks, but this commitment must be matched by action that builds confidence with the rebels, including stopping attacks in Darfur and reigning in the Janjaweed militia, as they committed to in the Darfur peace agreement. Similarly the various movements, including JEM, must cease military activity.

The views of wider Darfuri society, including Arab groups, need to be taken into account in the political process. We are urging the Special Envoys and their staff, and the UN Civil Affairs and the Darfur-Darfur Dialogue and Co-operation (set up as a result of the Darfur peace agreement) to co-operate and work with civil-society in this process.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions (a) he, (b) members of his Department and (c) UK representatives have had with (i) members and (ii) representatives of the government of Russia on its position on Darfur (A) prior to and (B) since Ambassador Vitaly Churkin’s statement at the UN Security Council meeting on 11 March; and if he will make a statement. (197170)

Following the 11 March UN Security Council consultations on Darfur, the Security Council agreed that Russia, as Council chair, would brief the media: expressing the Council’s concern at the worsening security and humanitarian situation; calling for a cease-fire; reiterating the need for all parties to facilitate the UN African Union Mission in Darfur’s (UNAMID) deployment; recalling the obligation of all parties to engage in political talks; and looking forward to a positive result between Sudan and Chad in Dakar.

We have regular discussions with the Government of Russia about Darfur. We have urged Russia to support the effective deployment of UNAMID and to use its influence with the Government of Sudan to press Sudan to fulfil its commitments and end the violence.