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United States Urges Sudan to Agree to Peacekeeping Plan

Framework calls for expanded joint United Nations-African Union force


Contact: Michelle Austein, USINFO Staff, 800-333-4636


WASHINGTON, Nov. 21 /Standard Newswire/ -- The United States wants the current conflict in Darfur to be the Sudanese region's last, said Andrew Natsios, the U.S. presidential envoy to Sudan.


The United States supports the United Nations' plans for bringing peace to Darfur, Natsios said during a speech at the Brookings Institution in Washington November 20. The United States stands behind the framework established by leaders in a meeting at the African Union's headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, November 16, he said.


The framework, agreed to by leaders from the African Union, the Arab League, the United States, the United Kingdom, China, the European Union and other nations, affirmed the major elements of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1706. These elements include calling for the Darfur peacekeeping force to be expanded to 20,000 members. The force would be primarily African and commanded by an African general, but would be funded predominantly by the United Nations. The United Nations' command-and-control structure would be used.


Sudanese Foreign Minister Lam Akol agreed in principle to the Addis Ababa document, Natsios said during a State Department press briefing November 20. There are still outstanding issues to which the Sudanese government must agree, including the number of troops involved. "We urge the Sudanese government to adopt the package that was a consensus document of the international community," Natsios said at the briefing.


The meeting in Addis Ababa was followed with a strong call for a cease-fire, said Jean-Marie Guéhenno, U.N. under secretary-general for peacekeeping. Guéhenno, also speaking at the Brookings Institution November 20, said a cease-fire will not work unless a serious political process is established. "Just throwing a force at the problem will not solve the problem," he said. "If that force is deployed without a credible political process going on, it will not work."


"The political process has to be re-energized and the United Nations is now ready to take its responsibility alongside the African Union to help that political process," Guéhenno said.


Meetings that follow up on the issues discussed in Addis Ababa will be sponsored jointly by the United Nations and the African Union. The agreement also calls for the United Nations and the African Union jointly to appoint a special representative of the U.N. secretary-general. Both Natsios and Guéhenno said one of the past difficulties in reaching agreements on Darfur is that there had been multiple negotiations occurring among different groups. This plan should eliminate that difficulty, they said.


Guéhenno said the peacekeeping force must be deployed in cooperation with the Sudanese government. "Discussions will have to take place between the U.N., the African Union and the government of Sudan so that we are all clearly agreed on the timing and nature of the deployment that we are going to have to make expeditiously," he said.


Natsios said there has been suspicion within the Sudanese government that the United States has a hidden agenda for its involvement in Darfur, a claim which he called "nonsense." "The only agenda the United States has in Darfur is a human rights and humanitarian agenda," he said.


For a peace agreement in Darfur to be successful, Natsios said, groups will have to be disarmed. What makes this conflict in Darfur more destructive than previous wars in the region is the introduction of heavy weaponry, he said.


The mandate of the current African Union force ends on January 1, 2007. Additionally, in January 2007 there will be a new U.N. secretary-general and a new U.S. Congress. Both Guéhenno and Natsios agreed that because of these factors, there is an urgent need for the parties involved in the Darfur negotiations to reach final agreements. "No time can be lost," Guéhenno said.


For more information, see Darfur Humanitarian Emergency.


USINFO is produced by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State.