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Sudan: Darfur

Volume 689: debated on Tuesday 30 January 2007

asked Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking, along with international partners, to secure peace in Darfur.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I make no apology for asking the House to return again to the situation in Darfur. The only thing to have changed since my visit there in October 2004 has been the exponential increase in the number of fatalities. It is estimated that as many as 400,000 people have now died as a result of the attacks, and more than 2.5 million people have been driven from their homes and now require international assistance. There is documented evidence of rape and enforced disappearances, and 90 per cent of the villages in Darfur have been razed to the ground. The genocide has been orchestrated and perpetrated by the Sudanese Government-backed Janjaweed militia.

The All-Party Group on Sudan, of which I am an officer, has documented these atrocities on a daily basis. Many of your Lordships recently attended the excellent briefings provided by the BBC World Service, sponsored by the all-party group. During that briefing, reference was made to the fragile situation in the south and the deteriorating situation in the east. My noble friend Lady Cox, who will speak later, has just returned from Sudan and will talk about the interaction of the situation in Darfur with the unfolding events elsewhere in Sudan. I am grateful to her and to other noble Lords for bringing their considerable expertise to tonight’s debate.

Among the many casualties of this conflict has been the credibility of the international institutions. The Security Council’s authority has been seriously eroded; its impotence was graphically underlined by Jan Pronk, who recently wrote on his website:

“Harassment of the UN Mission in Sudan has intensified during the last two months. Sudanese authorities can easily resort to such harassment, because they have not been challenged by UN Headquarters in New York, nor by the Security Council or by Governments of Member States. Some weeks ago one of our officials went to see the authorities in Darfur in order to raise a number of violations of human rights. The answer was exemplary of the self-confidence of those who have chosen to disregard … criticism: ‘You had better shut up”—

they were told—

“We can always expel you, as we have proven’”.

Those are the words of the former special representative of the United Nations; they are not from a journalist or just a rhetorical flourish. Contempt and defiance characterise the attitude of the Government of Sudan. That they have been allowed to behave with such impunity is a terrible indictment. This abject failure to protect is a parody of the UN’s recently proclaimed doctrine, “The Duty to Protect”. It has had devastating consequences for Darfur’s indigenous people and is now having ramifications for humanitarian operations as well.

Only today, the Associated Press reported on the withdrawal of Médecins du Monde—Doctors of the World. Eric Chevallier, its director, says that it has suspended its activities for an undetermined period. He adds:

“The balance between the help we were able to provide and the risks our staff were taking had reached breaking point”.

The Associated Press also reported today a joint statement by six other groups, including Oxfam and CARE International, in which they say:

“Aid workers are facing violence on a scale not seen before in Darfur, leaving access to people in need at the conflict’s lowest point”.

The scale of the challenges faced by the humanitarian aid workers is graphically outlined in another joint statement, released on 17 January, by the 14 UN agencies operating in Darfur. They said:

“In the last six months, 30 NGO and UN compounds were directly attacked by armed groups. More than 400 humanitarian workers have been forced to relocate 31 times from different locations ... Assets have been looted and staff threatened and physically harassed”.

In a plea to Governments around the world, the statement warns:

“The humanitarian community cannot indefinitely assure the survival of the population in Darfur if insecurity continues”.

It calls for “decisive intervention”. Tonight, the House will want to hear from the Minister what decisive action we are going to take to protect the people of Darfur and our aid workers, who are their lifeline.

It is often suggested that one reason why the international community has permitted the Government of Sudan to behave with such impunity has been the gain to be made from what is euphemistically called “intelligence co-operation”. Do we really believe that a country which harboured Osama bin Laden for five years and killed 2 million of its own people in the south is one with which we should be doing business at any level or one that could conceivably share in our values? History may well judge that we placed too much emphasis on erroneous attempts to gain intelligence while losing sight of the genocide, which continues to unfold before the eyes of the world.

Africa’s own assessment of the Government of President Omar al-Bashir was underlined yesterday by the African Union’s very welcome decision to deny him the chairmanship of the AU in favour of President John Kufuor of Ghana—a good man and a good deed in a bleak world. We look forward to hearing from the Minister, who I know has just returned from the African Union meeting.

In addition to strengthened international resolve, I particularly applaud the emergence of grassroots pressure groups and organisations such as Sudan Divestment UK. They are making an impact on the Sudanese Government where it hurts them most—their pockets. The Sudanese Government are dependent on foreign investment to implement their mission to eliminate the non-Arab population of Darfur. Since 2005, six US states have passed divestment legislation, replacing over $2 billion in affected securities. Currently, 25 additional US states are contemplating the enactment of similar laws.

In the UK, there are five companies and a few dozen international companies operating in the Sudan that need to consider their investments and policies. The worst UK offenders are Petrofac and a subsidiary company of Rolls-Royce called Rolls-Royce: Marine. The Weir Group, White Nile Petroleum and AMEC also need to clarify their interests in Sudan. They should emulate the decision of Siemens last week, which announced its decision to divest, as did the London School of Economics students' union and, last night, the students’ union of London University. New Hall College, Cambridge, has also endorsed divestment, and new campaigns are being started all across the country.

In a letter to be published in the Times tomorrow, leading members of the youth wings of the major political parties—Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat, as well as the Greens and Fabians—say:

“We call on companies that have commercial interests in Sudan to cease their financial support for the Government. Everyone can make a difference. This situation may seem overwhelming but the coalition against apartheid has shown that individual actions can and do make a difference”.

I am struck by the welcome lead that young people are taking. In the US, the Sudan Divestment Task Force, run mainly by student volunteers, has helped countless universities, companies and, more recently, the State of California, with its vast blue-chip industries, to divest billions of dollars from Sudan. Closer to home, I recently wrote to all members of the Parliamentary Contributory Pension Fund asking whether our fund has holdings in companies operating in the Sudan. The chairman, Sir John Butterfill MP, has kindly undertaken to look into this matter at the next meeting.

But there is also room for the Government to take some action. Does the Minister agree with the suggestion of the International Crisis Group that the Government should seek measures,

“specifically targeting revenue flows from the petroleum sector”,


“foreign investment in, and the supply of goods and services to”,

that and associated sectors? Perhaps he will also tell us whether targeted sanctions against the four individuals named in Security Council Resolution 1672 have been taken, and what financial and travel-related sanctions have been taken against assets, security agencies and fraudulent charities identified by the International Commission of Inquiry on Darfur.

If sanctions and disinvestment are to be successful, there needs to be universal application. The danger is that the Chinese, who currently hold 40 per cent of the Sudanese oil industry, will fill the gap. In advance of President Hu’s impending visit to China, I hope that Her Majesty’s Government will seek to persuade China to use its substantial leverage and certainly not to seek to profit as a result of US and European companies divesting. Certainly, the signals from Beijing seem hopeful in this regard.

The evidence that genocide is occurring in Darfur is overwhelming. The UK must be prepared to take all possible steps to bring it to an end, and both the Government and their citizens have an important role to play.

There are two other issues which I hope the Minister will also try to address this evening. First, in December last year, the Prime Minister expressed support for a no-fly zone over Darfur. Will the Minister tell us what progress is being made to bring that about? Secondly, will the Minister enlighten us as to the current standing of the peace negotiations and his assessments of last week’s reported attacks in the north and south of Darfur? Three more villages have been obliterated in the north, and 200 people killed in the south.

When I returned from my visit to Darfur in 2004, I asked the Government:

“If this isn’t genocide, what on earth is?”.

That question, along with many others, remains unanswered. The Prime Minister said that Darfur is,

“a scandal; not a problem”.

The UN aid agencies have called for decisive intervention. I hope that tonight’s debate will underline the urgent need to take concerted and decisive action.

My Lords, it is more than timely that the noble Lord, Lord Alton, is once again drawing the House’s attention to what remains, as it has been for several years, the greatest manmade humanitarian crisis facing the international community. Darfur regularly slips on and off our collective radar screen as other crises displace it, or our attention flags. Yet it remains an outstanding cause of shame and reproach to all those who have some capacity and responsibility to remedy the appalling situation in the west of Sudan. Each time the matter comes up in your Lordships’ House, the Government’s response tends to be along the lines of one of Britain’s least good poets: it is no better, it is much the same. That cannot be all we have to say on the subject.

It has been clear for a long time that protecting the people of Darfur from the harassment, displacement, rape and killing can be achieved only with the deployment of a substantial international peacekeeping force with a robust mandate and rules of engagement. For just as long, the Government of Sudan have manoeuvred, so far successfully, to prevent that happening. That is no disrespect to the African Union, which has tried hard to step into the breach, but a shortage of material resources and numbers have hampered its efforts. It is now clear that, on its own, it cannot and should not be expected to do the job.

The idea of a hybrid UN/African Union force now being pursued seems genuinely admirable, so long as it is pursued energetically and is not, again, hamstrung by constraints placed upon it by the Government of Sudan. Perhaps the Minister can bring some encouraging news about the constitution and deployment of such a force. Will he also say whether a hybrid force like that proposed would be fully financed, as Kofi Annan’s reform proposals of 2005 suggested, by UN-assessed contributions, without which we cannot possibly hope for the African Union to bear its part of the burden?

A peacekeeping force is not all that is required, however. It is clearly also urgent to address the shortcomings of the peace agreement reached under the Abuja process, which resulted in some rebel movements not accepting that agreement. It is right to ask those movements to suspend their armed struggle and come to the conference table, but one can persuade them to do this only if there is a conference table to which they can come, and a forum in which they can discuss their criticisms of the earlier agreement. I believe that there is currently no such conference table or forum, but perhaps the Minister can enlighten us.

Then there is the problem of Sudan’s western neighbours, Chad and the Central African Republic, which risk being destabilised by attacks launched across their borders. Has any consideration been given to preventively deploying some UN peacekeepers on the Chad and Central African side of the Sudanese border to discourage transborder operations in either direction? Such a deployment would not need the consent of the Sudanese Government, because it would not involve their territory.

However, much revolves around the attitude of the Sudanese Government, who have hitherto been obstructive and unhelpful. Nothing will concentrate the minds of that Government more than a clear display of unity by the Security Council. Last summer’s abstentions by China and Russia from the resolution authorising the deployment of a UN peacekeeping force, and their continuing resistance to bringing any effective pressure to bear on Khartoum, have encouraged the latter’s obduracy. A further attempt must be made to create that essential unity. Instead of concentrating the discussion around economic sanctions, would it not be worth while for the Security Council to state formally and unanimously that it has a responsibility to protect the people of Darfur and intends to exercise it? That would clearly be seen as a warning that, in the absence of Sudanese co-operation, other measures would be considered. It might be worth trying such an approach before resorting to another discussion of economic measures.

It is, in any case, clear that far more is at stake in Darfur than the lot of its people. This is the first clear-cut case of the responsibility of the international community to protect the citizens of a state which is either unwilling or unable to do so itself since that principle was established by the September 2005 UN summit. If the UN fluffs or fudges this test, the value of that breakthrough in international practice will be frittered away. If, on the other hand, the UN is able to give practical effect to that principle while working with the African Union, even late in the day, then many others in different parts of the world may be spared the fate suffered by the people of Darfur.

In conclusion, it would be in order for a word of praise to be offered to the African Union for its decision to decline to allow President al-Bashir of Sudan to assume its presidency for the second year running. That decision, together with the choice of the democratically elected President of Ghana, is surely a sign of maturity and good judgment, justifying our real confidence in and support for the African Union. It also sends a strong message to the Government of Sudan that if they want to achieve international respectability and recognition, they must co-operate with the international community, not defy it. Let us hope that that message is received and acted upon.

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Alton for once again bringing the tragedy of Darfur to our attention. He has cited the chilling details of what is happening there so comprehensively that not much more information needs to be added. I emphasise my strong support for his request for targeted sanctions, such as no-fly zones or the denial of visas to official representatives of the regime in Khartoum. I also support his plea for a greater disinvestment campaign. Such a campaign, implemented by official bodies and other influential groups such as churches, helped to bring an end to apartheid. I often wonder why we have been so slow to effect such a policy against the brutal regime in Khartoum, which benefits from international recognition and foreign investment even as it continues to kill its own people.

I therefore ask the Minister why Her Majesty’s Government give official invitations and red-carpet treatment to personnel such as the chairman of the Khartoum Chamber of Commerce. What will it take for Her Majesty’s Government to refrain from doing business with those in Khartoum perpetrating their genocidal policies, with 2 million dead and 4 million displaced before the Darfur conflict, which has killed more people than the tsunami?

As my noble friend indicated, I shall focus on some of the grave implications of the fall-out of the war in Darfur for the rest of Sudan. While resources and media attention are focused almost exclusively on Darfur, other dire and dangerous situations go unreported and unaddressed. As my noble friend said, I was in southern Sudan just l0 days ago for nearly two weeks, and saw many of the problems of the aftermath of decades of intense war: a devastated infrastructure of roads and public services such as healthcare and an urgent need for education for a generation of children denied access to schools, both during the war and today. There is also widespread concern that the Government in Khartoum are denying the south the resources needed for reconstruction to create disaffection with the Government of southern Sudan. They are thereby undermining the peace process by supporting militants and encouraging a process of Islamisation through strategic interventions.

The lack of adequate healthcare was reflected in one of the most horrifying discoveries of our visit. In eastern Upper Nile, we were surrounded by naked children with severe malnutrition and preventable and treatable diseases who were receiving no treatment. Even more shocking was the discovery of leprosy. We took photographs and case studies to the leprosy centre in Yei, where staff agreed with the diagnosis of leprosy, which is possibly of pandemic proportions in eastern Upper Nile. In central Equatoria, we found people dying from other treatable diseases, such as measles and meningitis or from complications in childbirth because of lack of medical care or access to hospital. The problems caused by such acute shortages of essential resources are exacerbated by an influx of refugees from Darfur who, having fled from the horrors there, find further suffering in the devastation and deprivations of the south.

It is also feared that the Government in Khartoum are deliberately and systematically destabilising the south by supporting militias and instigating recent outbreaks of fighting such as that in Malakal and the massacre outside Juba last October. Moreover, the large-scale immigration of newcomers from east Africa raises fears that some new immigrants represent a militant and strategic Islam which will affect the demographic structure of the south, changing its religious and ethnic composition before the referendum to determine its future, and therefore possibly affecting the outcome of that referendum. The south is in a geographically vulnerable position with Khartoum’s influence on every border: there are many al-Qaeda militants in east Africa; on the southern border, the so-called Lord’s Resistance Army, which is supported by Khartoum, is sustaining its terrorist policies in northern Uganda and southern Sudan, wreaking havoc; the genocidal conflict in Darfur is to the north; and Ethiopian militant rebels, also supported by Khartoum, are destabilising the eastern borderlands.

The people of southern Sudan are Christians, Muslims and traditional believers, who have generally lived in peaceful coexistence. However, during recent years, they have been forced to defend a front line against a militant Islam that would overrun southern Sudan and rapidly spread further. It has been claimed that it is only the resistance by southern Sudan that is preventing the Islamisation of the rest of Africa, down to Cape Town. For that reason there are real fears that the Government in Khartoum, having destroyed the way of life of the people of Darfur and left destroyed communities and structures everywhere, will do everything possible to prevent the development of a peaceful, stable, prosperous and democratic south.

Therefore, the challenges confronting the south, such as the provision of adequate resources to rebuild devastated lands and lives, need to be addressed urgently if the peace, which was won at such a price, is not going to be lost in another war or exploited to fulfil an Islamist agenda that could spread not only through Sudan, but far beyond in Africa. I hope that the Minister will reassure the House that Her Majesty’s Government are addressing these problems and will not allow the focus on the horrors of Darfur totally to distract attention from the perilous and parlous state of much of the rest of Sudan.

My Lords, we owe a tremendous debt to the noble Lord, Lord Alton, who has been indefatigable in raising the question of Darfur since before he went to the territory in 2004. He has repeatedly raised the matter in this House and never more graphically or passionately than he did this evening in a speech that was somewhat critical of the United Nations. When the Minister replies, I hope that he will give us a frank analysis of why it is taking so long to implement UN Security Council Resolution 1706, which was passed five months ago to strengthen UNMIS. In spite of the grave deterioration of the security and humanitarian positions in Darfur, the Security Council has yet to take firm action to shore up the AU force, to provide some protection for civilians facing attacks by Sudanese warplanes and the Janjaweed, or to bring greater pressure to bear on Khartoum than it has done so far to facilitate the deployment of the hybrid force, to which Khartoum agreed last August.

Last week, the Leader of the House said that the new UN Special Representative for Darfur, Mr Jan Eliasson, was visiting the region and once his report was received, that would be the opportunity for the Security Council to look at the issue again. In fact, Mr Eliasson left Khartoum on 15 January, and there is still no sign of action by the Security Council or of any report to the Security Council by the Secretary-General based on Mr Eliasson’s advice. Meanwhile, Sudanese bombers are killing villagers, displaced people are being attacked in the camps and, increasingly, aid workers and UN civilians are being physically assaulted and arrested by Khartoum’s troops. The Minister, who has just returned from the African Union summit—as the noble Lord, Lord Alton, pointed out—will, no doubt, be able to tell us something about the timing of the next moves and what we can expect from the Security Council.

The Secretary-General has expressed deep concern about the renewed use of bombers and has condemned the attacks on UN personnel and NGO and AU staff. It is worth reminding ourselves that over the past six months, 30 NGO and UN compounds have been attacked by armed groups, 12 aid workers have been killed, five are missing, and hundreds of staff have had to be relocated for their own protection. However, their plight is as nothing compared with the decimation of the population. According to the noble Lord, Lord Alton, 400,000 people have been killed and 2.5 million have been displaced. In addition, there are 90,000 displaced people in eastern Chad and 150,000 in the Central African Republic. The noble Lord, Lord Hannay, asked what the United Nations is doing about those situations. I am aware that the Security Council and the AU have been looking at the inter-relationship between those conflicts because there was a presidential statement on 16 January about the continuing instability along the borders between the three states that referred to the preliminary recommendations on the deployment of a multi-dimensional United Nations presence in Chad and the Central African Republic and called for a report by the middle of February on the size, structure and mandate of such a presence. Is that work being aligned, as far as possible, with the planning for the hybrid force in Darfur and would it be sensible to look at common logistics for the three operations?

Last August, following al-Bashir’s refusal to accept a UN peacekeeping force in Darfur, the Security Council decided to strengthen the existing AU force by adding to it 17,300 military, 3,300 police and 16 formed police units. No timetable was laid down for the deployment of these reinforcements, but three months went by and the only sign of movement was an agreement to set up a tripartite mechanism between the UN, the AU and Sudan to implement UN Security Council Resolution 1706 but in practice allowing Sudan a veto on the injection of any further international peacekeeping forces into Darfur. President al-Bashir wrote to the UN Secretary-General on 23 December reiterating his agreement to the first two stages of the UN proposal, but even the first stage of the proposal, the light support package, has yet to be completed because of Sudanese obstruction. It is expected that by tomorrow only 47 UN military, 30 police and 10 civilians will have arrived, with another 20 scheduled to arrive by the end of January, which is about half the total numbers projected in the first phase of the operation.

On 24 January, the UN Secretary-General wrote to President al-Bashir setting out the proposals for phase 2, which had been previously agreed by the UN and AU. At every stage, permission has to be sought from Khartoum. Even then, the arrangements for the transit of people and goods have to be accepted by Khartoum one at a time. At the tripartite meeting on 24 January, the discussion focused entirely on the implementation of the LSP, and when the Secretary-General met President al-Bashir last Sunday, he received no answer concerning the phase 2 proposals. The next chance to discuss that will not be until 7 February, and it would be useful to have the Minister's assessment of the way forward. Are we going to have this perpetual postponement for weeks at a time of the arrangements for each of these phases?

If the Sudanese continue to insist that the troops for the hybrid force must only be Africans, I suggest that the African states which have provided contingents to UNMIL, UNOCI and MONUC might be able to help, as those operations prepare to wind down; though in the near future, it will be very hard to expand the Darfur operation while at the same time getting a new peacekeeping operation under way in Somalia. President al-Bashir has insisted also, in his letter to the Secretary-General of 23 December, that the finalisation of the plans for the hybrid operation have still to be negotiated, including the size of the force. One obstacle has been cleared out of the way, as your Lordships have already heard in the debate, in that President al-Bashir will not become president of the AU for the next year; but it looks as though he is playing for time until the AMIS mandate runs out at the end of June.

I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Alton, that the United Nations must take a robust line against the killers and the bullies who are holding a whole people to ransom. A few Apache ground attack helicopters would do wonders against the Janjaweed. If only a non-African state could provide such munitions, they could nevertheless be operated under the AU/UN memorandum of understanding of 25 November 2006. Experience shows clearly that when the hybrid force goes in, it needs a mandate that allows far more active military protection of civilians.

Over the past three and a half years, as the crisis has escalated, it has been considered necessary to use kid gloves with the Sudanese Government over Darfur—first, to get their co-operation on signing the CPA, and, latterly, on implementing it. The time has come when the UN cannot allow Khartoum to block effective means of stopping mass murder and ethnic cleansing.

My Lords, my noble friend has again done us and Sudan a service in drawing the acute humanitarian crisis in Darfur to our attention. He did so in Questions last week and has done so again today. The crisis afflicts not only refugees and displaced people but also humanitarian workers. It is of a different quality. UN agency appeals are coming out of Africa all the time, but it is rare to see a distress call such as we saw from 13 UN agencies on 17 January. They said that repeated military attacks, shifting front lines and the fragmentation of armed groups had compromised safe humanitarian access to the victims of the crisis, and that the,

“humanitarian community cannot indefinitely assure the survival of the population in Darfur if insecurity continues”.

This war appears to be beyond anyone’s control.

My noble friend has already given the House the figures that show the appalling scale of suffering. Last week it was reported that another 5,000 people had fled their homes in west Darfur to seek refuge in two camps around El Geneina, adding to the millions displaced. Several violent incidents were reported in Darfur during the weekend following the UN appeal. According to the United Nations mission, an Antonov plane bombed Ein Siro, near Kutum, killing two civilians and livestock. The same day a UN contractor and an international NGO staff member were abducted. Earlier that weekend Sudanese government police officers had attacked staff from the United Nations, from the African Union mission and seven NGOs in south Darfur. The attack on 20 staff and the subsequent arrests of some of them occurred in the state capital of Nyala, where they were apparently attending a social gathering.

I spoke to an aid worker this evening who said that there was no respite from banditry, theft and attacks on NGO vehicles and other property; indeed these attacks are worsening. I hesitate to use the word “routine” but these routine attacks, especially continued aerial bombardment, which others have mentioned, once again call into question the Government of Sudan’s ability to govern and their good faith in assisting the international community with humanitarian work in Darfur, including the return to peace talks.

As the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, said, 12 relief workers have been killed in the past six months, more than in the previous two years combined. Their loss has directly hit humanitarian operations. The killing of three government water engineers in west Darfur in July 2006, for example, meant an immediate if temporary suspension of water and sanitation activities in the camps. Nine workers from the same government department were abducted in November, and five are still missing. The proportion of the affected population of Darfur judged “accessible” according to UN security standards has dropped to just 64 per cent, which apparently is the lowest access rate since 2004.

The UN agencies say quite plainly that they cannot indefinitely assure the survival of the population. That is a stern warning. They, like the rest of us, are looking for immediate concrete steps from the signatories, and the non-signatories, of the Darfur peace agreement towards a peaceful settlement and the respect of international humanitarian law. I join my noble friend in asking the Government whether they will say to NATO that a no-fly zone could be an effective sanction if the Government of Sudan continue to resist the deployment of the strong phase 3 AU/UN hybrid peacekeeping force.

I do not believe that the time has come for us to pull out of Sudan. We still have a lot of important British interests in Khartoum and our influence has been notable in helping to achieve the comprehensive peace agreement in the south, which is gradually bringing back hope to the people.

As treasurer of the All-Party Group on Sudan, I am concerned that the Sudanese people and their Government should know that they have friends in this Parliament, and that the British public should be informed as soon as possible of events and opportunities coming up in Sudan. But the Government of Sudan’s failure to assist humanitarian agencies and their recent hostility towards some of them—notably the suspension by the Humanitarian Aid Commission last year of the well respected Sudan Social Development Organization—make it hard for the friends of Sudan to speak positively about developments in the country as we would like to do.

This is not the time to make new suggestions about the intractable peace process, and I hope that the Minister will use every possible minute remaining to describe his recent experience. We should recognise that behind the scenes there are many experts from the embassies, the African Union and the UN working to get the talks going again, and it is no easy task. I will confine myself to a few questions. Can the Minister confirm that the Darfur-Darfur Dialogue and Consultation (DDDC) is a process towards a new peace agreement and must not be associated too closely with the old DPA, which is now discredited? Does he also agree that to avoid the mistakes of the last time there must be a greater effort not just to inform people but to ensure the fullest participation of local people through tribal leaders, mosques and local organisations? That was one of the failures of the last round which caused everything to fall apart.

Can the Minister tell us which European countries are now actively engaged in the process, whether China has been approached and is included, and whether the dialogue process of the African Union is adequately funded? Finally, can the UK do anything to protest against the restrictions by the Humanitarian Aid Commission—which seem to contradict its terminology—on access to Darfur and its latest refusal even to issue or renew visas to development agencies working there?

My Lords, I, too, congratulate my noble friend Lord Alton on launching this debate, with his remarkable sense of timing, in the week when the African Union is meeting in Ethiopia. This is the first time that I have had a chance to participate in a debate on Sudan. It is very impressive to see the knowledge, passion and concern shown by noble Lords.

My interest goes back as far as 1947, when, at the age of 11, I flew out to Sudan in the school holidays to join my father, who served there for 25 years and helped to pull down the flag on 1 January 1956, on the independence of Sudan. Later, as a Minister of State, I had the privilege of visiting that country two or three times. Anyone who has had any dealings with the Sudanese, north or south, has great affection and respect for them.

The people of Sudan have suffered too much devastation and loss of life in the past several decades. If the Sudanese Government can have been persuaded, after a great deal of pressure, agony and loss of life, eventually to settle in the south, they must be persuaded to settle in Darfur as well. As so many of my noble friends have said, it is right that we—and the Sudanese, above all—should expect the international community to continue to press vigorously, first, to alleviate the humanitarian crisis, but secondly and equally importantly, to find a longer-term solution and a greater, better framework for stability in Darfur.

The conflict stems from a lethal mixture of problems. First, there is the long-term problem: the rivalry for land and water between the settled farmers and the riverine tribes against the pressure, moving southwards, of the nomadic people. At a young age, I had experience of that as the last British district officer to join the Kenya Administration in the northern province of Kenya, with the Somali nomads pushing south and pressing for water and land, often creating violence. It is the job of any Government in those circumstances to hold the ring and to keep the peace. That is not happening in Darfur.

An additional problem is that this area has been marginalised for a long time, lacks water and has been treated as a backwater, with no proper participation in regional or national government, a problem fuelled during the past 10 or 15 years by the pressure from theocratic Islamic ideology—in the 1990s in particular—and now with the subjugation of the people by the Sudanese Government, using the Janjaweed as their weapon. The consequence, as we all know, is the disaster that we see in front of us, another shameful human disaster. Two thousand villages have been destroyed, at least 2.5 million people have been displaced, at least 200,000 refugees have gone across the border to Chad, and at least 200,000 people—probably many more—have been killed.

In this post-imperial age, what is required in such crises is the vigorous mobilisation of international influence and support, both to deal with the humanitarian crisis and to provide a longer-term framework for the people to live in peace. I am sure that my noble friends are right to have stressed in this debate that we must look to the regional powers—the region itself—to take the lead. For that reason, I join everyone else in saying that it is good that they have taken the decision that President al-Bashir should not be the chairman of the African Union. Then the regional powers need the support of the United Nations. It is good that in Ethiopia the new UN Secretary-General said that he wanted to take the lead in that area. I look forward to hearing more from the Minister on that.

Beyond all that, we need all the time to analyse what the rest of the international community can do, using what influence it has. I ask myself and the Minister what moderate Arab Governments are doing and saying, because it should cause Arab leaders deep embarrassment and shame when they see what Arab people are doing to each other and to African people in Darfur.

By contrast, I ask the Minister also to say something about China, which my noble friend Lord Alton mentioned and which has growing influence in Sudan. As we know, it is the biggest investor in oil; it has built the pipeline to the Red Sea; it has invested US$8 billion in the oil exploration contracts. Sudan imports products from China on an enormous scale: 14 per cent of all imports to the country come from China. China therefore has growing influence; it can bring benefits to Africa and Sudan, but it can also do harm. We see the evidence that it has propped up corrupt dictators—I cite Zimbabwe as the best example—and it is today propping up President al-Bashir.

The great country of China is becoming a great power. We are entitled to look to it to show more statesmanship and leadership. I hope that the Government are being vigorous in embarking on a dialogue with the Chinese Government—I hope that the Minister can say something about that—to influence them to play a constructive role. The people of Sudan deserve a better deal than they have.

My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Alton of Liverpool, on bringing this debate before us tonight and on the most eloquent and forceful way in which he made the points to which we all listened and to which so many noble Lords have responded with equal concern.

This is an ongoing debate. Only recently, on 26 January, the Secretary of State for International Development, Mr Hilary Benn MP, issued a statement in response to the arrest of 20 UN, NGO and AU staff by the Sudanese police and national security on 19 January. He commented on their subsequent verbal and physical abuse, including sexual assault:

“I utterly condemn these appalling attacks by the Sudanese authorities on those who are in Darfur to help the victims of the terrible conflict there. The Government of Sudan has an obligation to uphold the human rights and fundamental freedoms to which it is committed by both peace agreements and international convention”.

On 23 January, in your Lordships’ House, my noble friend Lady Northover asked a Question about the response of the UK Government to the UN’s warning that its agencies were having difficulty holding the line on Darfur. The Lord President of the Council, the noble Baroness, Lady Amos, replied:

“We are extremely worried about the humanitarian situation”.

She also said:

“I utterly condemn the rising violence … against aid workers … struggling to deliver vital assistance to nearly 4 million people”.—[Official Report, 23/1/07; col. 1002.]

One cannot but agree absolutely with that condemnation and those sentiments, but we must press for action to match that condemnation. We need to be seen to be doing more than joining in the collective wringing of hands. The noble Baroness, Lady Amos, called for all sides to provide safe and unhindered access throughout Darfur. She also noted that movement was slow in consolidating a ceasefire in a renewed political process and on the hybrid AU/UN peacekeeping force to which the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, referred.

Will the Minister tell your Lordships’ House whether there have been any signs in the past seven or 10 days of the Government of Sudan recognising any of their obligations, and any signs of a quickening of the movement on the issues to which the noble Baroness, Lady Amos, drew attention in your Lordships’ House? I ask this in the light of two important events in relation to Darfur and Sudan in those seven to 10 days. First, and in particular, the African Union has again bypassed Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir in his bid to become chairman of the African Union because of the conflict in Darfur, as a result of enormous pressure from other African countries, the international community, aid agencies and so forth against the president’s campaign.

Secondly, Ban Ki-Moon, the UN Secretary-General, made a speech at the AU summit in Addis Ababa—the Minister attended that summit and may well have heard him in person—in which he called for the African Union to show a unity of purpose in bringing peace to Darfur. As war-torn Darfur is now considered to be the largest humanitarian crisis in the world, there is an urgent call for Africa’s leaders to show the same unity of purpose and partnership with the UN that brought peace to Burundi and Sierra Leone. Mr Ban went on to say:

“How Africa fares in reaching the Millennium Goals is a matter of life and death for millions of Africans. It is also a test of the ability of the UN to carry out the mandate our membership has given us. It will be one of my priorities to ensure that we meet that test and I will strengthen the organisation of the UN accordingly”.

Will the Minister tell us whether he agrees that if, as the UN says, Darfur is the world’s largest humanitarian crisis, it is a touchstone to achieving the unity and commitment for which Mr Ban is calling? By the same token, should it not be the focus of additional UN resources that strengthening the organisation must imply? Does he also agree that the UK Government could, and I suggest should, address the effectiveness of the UN Human Rights Council? Is the Minister aware that the effectiveness of that council has been at issue since the rift developed between western members and African and Islamic states? Does he think that the council carries less weight now on this issue, particularly given its new composition? Does he therefore agree that the UK Government could be pressing the council to do more, outside as well as inside Darfur? Should the United Kingdom be pressing the council to use its special procedures mechanisms to do more than simply appoint its country-specific rapporteur to investigate human rights abuses in-country in Sudan after receiving an invitation to do so, in due course reporting internally to the council? Should not the United Kingdom press the Human Rights Council to act now, without waiting for an invitation, by appointing a thematic rapporteur to investigate the wealth of evidence already in existence outside Darfur on extra-judicial killings and the violation of women, which continues to be rampant in Darfur?

Most importantly, should not the United Kingdom Government emphasise that the benefits of having a thematic rapporteur who reports independently on the council’s investigations and publishes its reports to the international community—not just internally reporting to the Human Rights Council, from whence it may never emerge—is a far more effective way of keeping the issues of Darfur on the centre of the international stage?

My Lords, I add my thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Alton, for giving the House the opportunity to debate this important topic. I also echo the words of the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, in praising the noble Lord, Lord Alton, for his tireless work in trying to secure peace in Darfur. Much has been written and said in the media about the crimes of humanity occurring every day in the region of Darfur and the surrounding areas, but very little has been said on how these are to be stopped.

As we have heard in this debate, the Sudanese Government must take a great deal of the responsibility for allowing the crisis to get to this state and for preventing the international community from taking steps to resolve it. It is very sad that more than 12 years after the genocide in Rwanda and more than 15 years after the genocide in the former Yugoslavia, international institutions are still not able to mobilise quickly and effectively to prevent similar crimes occurring in Sudan. The noble Lord, Lord Alton, opened this debate with a graphic description of the Sudanese Government’s contempt and defiance, as he described it, of the international community.

The militias, which are armed and given air support by the Sudanese Government, have perpetuated much of the violence towards civilians in Darfur and have led to the mass exodus of people from the area to overcrowded and ill-equipped refugee camps. The wilful obstruction and even expulsion of aid agencies operating there by the Government ensures that even these places of refuge are unable to offer much protection. The noble Lord, Lord Hannay, was right to describe this as one of the greatest humanitarian manmade crises facing the international community.

Last year, there was a glimmer of hope when the UN Security Council passed Resolution 1706. This provided a clear duty on the international community to protect civilians under Chapter VII and authorised the deployment of UN troops into Darfur to stem the violence. It is doubly disappointing that this resolution has achieved so little, as the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, pointed out. If all it takes to prevent the UN enforcing Security Council resolutions is for the president of the culpable country to say “No, I don't want to let you in”, we will never achieve anything. So what steps are Her Majesty’s Government taking to enforce this resolution? How are those responsible for the violence ever to be held to account before the International Criminal Court if the UN has so little power? The noble Baroness, Lady Cox, who is just back from two weeks in southern Sudan, in a very eloquent speech, gave the House some shocking examples of what this brutal regime is doing there.

The consultation between the UN and the Sudanese Government, with the involvement of the African Union, was intended to find a way through the impasse. It was to decide how UN troops could support and reinforce African Union troops on the ground. Instead, it seems to have resulted in the effective dismissal of the resolution. Certainly it does not look as if UN troops will be on the ground in meaningful numbers or with any command independence any time soon.

It is all very well to say that these things take time, but as time passes and nothing is done, the violence grows and spreads, and yet more people suffer. The longer it takes for UN troops to be deployed in Darfur, the worse the situation will become, and the less chance the UN will have of resolving the crisis. Can the Minister reassure the House that initiatives at the UN level will achieve something and that this Government are using every means at their disposal to keep the pressure up? In a Statement on international development in July, the Secretary of State mentioned the need for,

“an integrated UN humanitarian system that responds faster when crisis strikes”.—[Official Report, Commons, 13/7/06; col. 1493.]

What steps have been taken to achieve this?

It is unfortunate that the failings of the UN are being highlighted because of the failings of another international institution, the African Union. The lack of competence of this body is clear; its troops are unable to maintain the peace in Darfur while suffering under poor command, limited logistics and low morale. In the DfID report, Making Governance Work for the Poor, Her Majesty’s Government promised to work actively to increase the capacity of organisations such as the AU. It would appear that any steps the Government might have taken to improve the AU’s capacity have been woefully ineffective. I, like all other speakers, also applaud the AU’s decision this week to give the chair to Ghana and not to Sudan. I hope that this will send a strong signal to the Government in Khartoum as to how their actions in Darfur are viewed by many other countries.

The crisis in Darfur is not an isolated situation. It is already affecting neighbouring countries via refugees, and now we are seeing cross-border attacks on refugee camps in Chad. The noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, spoke of the “distress call” sent out by the aid agencies. There are also worrying signs that Darfur is destabilising the fragile peace in south Sudan. Can the Minister reassure the House that Her Majesty’s Government are doing everything possible to prevent that region also falling back into civil war with all the attendant horrors and deaths that that will entail?

The situation at the grass roots is no more optimistic than at the international or national levels. The recent arrests of 20 relief workers, accompanied by beatings and sexual assault, show the difficulties of even non-military intervention and aid. This atmosphere of violence and lawlessness is leading not only to immense difficulties for aid agencies and NGOs, but is also perpetuating and deepening a culture of violence and discrimination against women. There has already been a great deal of concern about women’s rights in Sudan. There are very few countries where female genital mutilation is so widely practised, and women remain unequal under even the letter of the law, let alone the practice. The use of mass rape as a weapon of war and a method of destroying communities has been appallingly effective in traumatising families and I have nothing but admiration for the people who are attempting to help those in the refugee camps and the remaining villages, but they need far more than supportive words from this country. Are we working with human rights groups in Sudan to address the enormous inequalities suffered by women and other vulnerable groups, even in the more peaceful areas of the country?

I look forward to the Minister’s response and hope that he will be able to show the House some concrete advances made by the international community towards securing peace in Darfur. As the noble Lord, Lord Luce, said, the people of Darfur have suffered too much devastation and too much loss of life.

My Lords, the House has rightly thanked the noble Lord, Lord Alton of Liverpool, for once again raising these vital issues. I join in that and thank all other noble Lords who have spoken. This has to be one of the top concerns for all of us world wide, and as the noble Lord, Lord Astor, said in his closing remarks, we have little time to get this right. The Government remain gravely concerned about Sudan and about Darfur in particular, and about achieving a resolution to the crisis. It is one of our highest foreign policy priorities. I feel strongly about this, as noble Lords will know, from my own experiences of Darfur and of Juba in the south, where I have seen many of the same things described by the noble Baroness, Lady Cox. I share her sense of horror. I have just returned from the African Union summit in Addis Ababa and I want to share with the House some of the stark realities as they are today. Indeed, I will be going back to Africa tomorrow night to continue some of this work.

I held discussions in Addis Ababa with a number of African leaders, including President Konare of the African Union and Foreign Minister Lam Akol of Sudan, and with representatives of all the regional neighbours who were available, which unfortunately did not include Chad.

This response to your Lordships’ debate must be utterly hard-headed. I start by welcoming John Kufuor’s election. He is a decent man who will be good for the AU. The AU has been trying to build a solid international reputation for decades; it could have lost it in half an hour.

The Government are at the forefront of the international efforts to resolve the Darfur conflict and to sustain the increasingly fragile north-south peace, achieved at the cost of so many lives. I will return to that point. We are the largest bilateral donor to Darfur. So far we have contributed £190 million and our commitment remains undiminished. In addition to providing aid, our aim is also to achieve peace and security through a viable political process. The noble Lords, Lord Hannay and Lord Luce, referred to the international community’s responsibilities in this endeavour in the region. It is, of course, the international community and the regional communities that we need to be active.

The basis of a peace agreement was signed in Abuja in the first week of last May, with the important involvement throughout of my right honourable friend Hilary Benn MP. It agreed a ceasefire, although not all of the rebel forces signed; set out a path of reconstruction and compensation; and provided for AMIS, the AU force, to step up peace and security arrangements. Whatever may be said, AMIS had for some time done a job which was very hard and demanding, and that should be acknowledged. The Government of Sudan agreed to disarm the Janjaweed.

However, significant terms of the agreement were breached more or less immediately and it became clear that, after a more diligent start than is sometimes acknowledged, the AMIS force became too weak. It was too poorly led and without a strong enough mandate. All of that is true, and all of it has been said by the African Union itself. AMIS could not halt the growing violence of the Government of Sudan, the Janjaweed or the many rebel groups. Let us be clear: they all have blood on their hands—mostly the blood of innocent Darfurians; AU troops, many of whom have been killed; and NGO staff.

The Government took the lead again last August in the negotiations at the Security Council that led to Resolution 1706, which mandated a strong and effective UN peacekeeping force. We did not achieve the support of China and Russia although, in the final analysis, they did not oppose it. As the issue of China has been raised by many noble Lords, I should inform the House that we are in constant dialogue with the Chinese about what they can do. Even if they look at the situation in the narrowest commercial sense, the instability of the country must make their investments look, day by day, more liable to fall apart than succeed. But China is also now a great world power, and with that comes a responsibility which goes further than commercial interests.

More critically, the Government of Sudan refused to consent, after the UN resolution, to a UN mission. It was clear from African Union forces and their commanders in the area that if there was to be an African force, or a predominantly African force—which of course is the ideal—it would not be able to fight its way across and into Sudan. That is not a possibility in the present circumstances.

Several UN ministers worked on this matter in New York and later in Khartoum, but President al-Bashir has been adamant. Indeed, his helicopter gunships, fixed-wing Antonov bombers and ground troops, in violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1591 and all subsequent agreements, have, with Janjaweed help, continued to kill and maim. But they are not the only people to have done so; so have the rebel groups.

The international community sought another viable way, trying to move forward as the fighting spread again into Chad, as has been said, and the Central African Republic, trailing displaced and destitute people in its wake. On 16 November 2006, Hilary Benn, the Secretary of State for International Development, attended a prolonged negotiation in Addis Ababa, chaired by Kofi Annan, between the Government of Sudan and the international community. It agreed another way forward: first, an effective ceasefire; secondly, a renewed political process; thirdly, effective peacekeeping forces to monitor both. It also needed a stronger mandate, as the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, said, and that was also agreed.

The negotiation ended with al-Bashir’s opposition to the UN remaining firm. It was agreed that the peacekeeping required a three-phase system with UN involvement, starting with a light package of advisers to AMIS. As the noble Lord said, that is happening, but slowly. However, we might as well be blunt and honest about this: that is because the UN has moved painfully slowly, as well as because of al-Bashir’s confrontational attitude.

Still, growing numbers are now in Darfur in the light package. A heavy mission is next, with significant numbers of UN troops, preferably from Africa, to bolster AMIS. Negotiations are relatively well advanced on that, but again there is a lack of urgency on all sides, including at the UN, over critical issues such as the funding of such a force. Finally, the aim of the Addis negotiation is a hybrid AU/UN force for Darfur of about 17,000 troops and 3,000 police, with serious command and control, logistics backup, heavy lift including helicopters and agreed systems of troop rotation. We and our allies stand ready to back that, although we would have preferred a straightforward UN force—as would the AU.

Discussions on this issue are also plainly too slow. I know that it breaks new ground at the UN to fund troops of another organisation—the AU, in this case—but a bureaucratic argument about that would be unforgivable. Ban Ki Moon, the new Secretary-General, has promised new energy and greater effort. I intend to go on behalf of the Government to New York to press this vigorously. People cannot be allowed to continue to die against the backdrop of arcane exchanges about funding modalities. These issues have to be resolved.

President al-Bashir agreed the outline plan I have described, and some things have moved, as I have said—but his aircraft are still hitting civilians and seem well co-ordinated with militias, from whom not one weapon has been removed. The noble Lord, Lord Chidgey, asks, reasonably enough, whether there are any signs of progress. Foreign Minister Lam Akol told me last Friday that the Government of Sudan will not meet their Abuja commitments while the rebels continue to fight. No one will be disarmed, whatever the promises, and, he says, against this dire background, and despite everything we may think in your Lordships’ House, everything is going very well in Darfur. There is no real violence, plenty of food, no NGO in peril. Someone described that to me as a senior Minister being in denial. I must tell your Lordships’ House that my view is far darker than that.

The timetable is clear: the light force now, while the heavy force is intended in the spring—probably April, if it can be funded properly. The hybrid UN process is still under discussion for the reasons I have described. In the mean time, the United Kingdom has pledged a further £15 million to AMIS to keep it going. So far we have given AMIS £67 million, and we are pressing everyone else in the European Community and elsewhere.

We are backing the UN/AU peace initiative to bring the rebel forces back to negotiation. It needs the sort of machinery the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, described, but that is potentially there, led by Jan Eliasson and Dr Salim Salim. Our special representative to Sudan, Christopher Prentice, is there in full support, and that work has started—too slowly, but it has started.

Leaders of the Sudan Liberation Movement are meeting with the intention of reunifying their fragmenting movement. We support the UN Secretary-General’s assessment mission to Chad to consider how to introduce the peacekeeping force there. The report is expected in February. I do not believe there will be much integration because of the objections of the Sudan, but that is no reason not to protect the people of Chad.

My Lords, anticipating that this would probably be the answer, I asked whether there could be common logistics between the operations in CAR, Chad and Darfur, because all the difficulties that have been caused in supplying the AU forces in Darfur could be overcome if a supply route was established through Chad or CAR.

My Lords, the routes through CAR are long and tortuous, as I am sure everybody who looks at the maps will see. President al-Bashir has said that anything that comes in through Chad is unacceptable: this is still a problem.

The second major area that has been discussed this evening is the appalling abuses against humanitarian organisations. The Government share that concern. We support the establishment of the International Commission of Inquiry, although it will find exactly what has been described this evening. We sponsored UNSCR 1593 in March 2006, referring Darfur to the ICC. We support the ICC investigations. In response to a question asked this evening, I can say that we are expecting the prosecutions against two of the four indictees to begin in the next few weeks—it may even be a couple of weeks.

On 14 December, the ICC prosecutor highlighted evidence of large-scale civilian massacres and sexual violence. As I have said, he will put the first cases, which came from 2003-04, to the ICC judges in the coming month. Khartoum has been told repeatedly—and I repeat it tonight—that we will back the ICC wherever its investigations lead and into the future.

I shall be totally clear: I hope for UN progress. I prefer a solution to the empty opportunity to bewail the facts and then later say, “Well, we all told you so”. But the facts must be faced. On 17 January, the UN country team released a statement which highlighted increasing vicious attacks against humanitarian personnel. I take this opportunity to pay tribute to those people. Their courage leaves me almost without words to describe what they go through. The noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, made the same point about their quality and durability. Figures on how many personnel have been killed have been mentioned already. Others have been beaten, raped, intimidated and robbed. Last December, the NGO Action Contre La Faim was forced to withdraw from Geraida in south Darfur. It was attacked by rebels, not by the Government of Sudan. This January, UN and NGO staff in Nyala, the capital of south Darfur, were savagely attacked, on this occasion by the Sudanese police—everybody is engaged in this business. Their allies in the Janjaweed attacked southern Sudan as a whole from south Darfur, placing the Sudan’s comprehensive peace agreement under still greater strain. Darfur shows signs of unwinding the areas where peace has to some extent been installed.

I say to the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, that we are working very hard on the north-south peace as a UK priority: we have to. Some progress has been made—for example, the formation of the Government of National Unity, the transfer to the south of $1.8 billion of oil revenue since 2005—but we all know that this peace remains very fragile. President al-Bashir and Vice-President Kiir must show leadership to find solutions. We will back every effort in this regard.

One of our efforts is to try to identify and introduce to the United Kingdom people of influence in Sudan whose attitudes are relatively benign. They are not representatives of the regime, nor its puppets, but we have to build some relationships and find people with whom we can work if there is to be progress.

I have commented on China. I have commented on the work needed to establish a substantial peace-keeping force, as the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, said. We need to resolve the assessed contributions issue very quickly. I believe that the Fifth Committee has started work on it, but it is slow. I am insistent that it should be faster. I have made comments on the forum for some of the discussions among the rebels and about the deployments in Chad.

I hope that I have indicated that we think that Jan Eliasson can play an important role with Dr Salim Salim in the development of a possible peace discussion. The sources of troops will remain overwhelmingly African—and I make that point for the noble Lord, Lord Avebury—although others may well be prepared to assist.

I have tried to be painfully realistic about the issues that are faced. I want to conclude with words that I hope will be understood in this Chamber but also way beyond this Chamber. We work in this Government for a good outcome, which is shared by all parties—I do not say it is the Government alone. We call on all parties to choose the road to peace and we will help. We shall work very hard with all our partners in the international community for this goal. In Europe lots of work is being done with the Norwegians and the French and, of course, with the Commission. But we shall all, in doing this work, judge the actions of others rather than their words and blandishments.

If President al-Bashir fails to choose a peaceful humanitarian path, he must face the consequences of making a bad choice. The noble Lord, Lord Alton, described some of those consequences, such as the potential for disinvestment, which will probably be led by businesses whether Governments urge them to or not, as they would be ethical and prudent decisions on their part. The sanctions regime; the reach of the International Criminal Court as it judges who has or continues to commit crimes of concern for the international community; and the extent of the arms embargo must all be considered. I repeat the statement of my right honourable friend the Prime Minister on 22 November that we are looking at the possibility of a no-fly zone. That was something that we promised we would do in the UNGA in New York in September. It is a difficult call but it is still one that we are considering. In fact, I say tonight because I want it heard more generally that we rule out nothing in the resolution of this situation. We work for the best and are preparing for the worst.

My Lords, I believe that all noble Lords will want to thank the Minister for the way in which he answered the debate and wish him Godspeed as he returns to Africa to Addis Ababa to the important talks in which he plays such a significant part. He knows that he has the whole confidence of your Lordships' House in the incredibly important work that he is undertaking. I thank all noble Lords who participated in tonight’s proceedings. I am certain that we shall return to this issue again and again as the need arises.

House adjourned at 8.53 pm.