December 21st, 2006 04:38 EST
Sudan Must Implement Peace Plan by End of 2006, U.S. Envoy Says
Washington -- If Sudan does not implement fully a negotiated Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) for Darfur by the end of 2006, the United States will embark on another strategy to bring relief to the many innocent people in the region who are suffering as a result of ongoing hostilities, says U.S. Special Envoy for Sudan Andrew Natsios.
Briefing reporters December 20 at the State Department, Natsios said he hopes to meet soon with incoming U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to ensure there is a unified international message to Sudan to accept the presence of a new “hybrid” international peacekeeping force to provide stability and allow humanitarian efforts to resume in the country’s western Darfur region.
The U.N. Security Council agreed December 19 on the deployment of a hybrid force -– expected to consist of 20,000 troops and police officers from both the United Nations and the African Union (AU) -- to strengthen efforts of the existing African Union force in the region. The mandate of the current African Union force in Darfur ends on January 1, 2007.
Returning from a week in Sudan, Natsios said he had useful meetings with President Omar al-Bashir, presidential adviser and Sudan Liberation Movement leader Minni Minawi and other senior Sudanese officials.
He stressed the urgency of implementing U.N. agreements to reduce violence in Darfur and of establishing a cease-fire commission that would include non-CPA signatory rebel groups.
The United States, the leading donor of food aid and humanitarian assistance to Sudan, needs the international community to tell Sudan that "in no uncertain terms" it must act to protect its civilians and make it possible for aid workers to reach people in need, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said in an interview December 18.
"The time has come for the Khartoum government to accept the help the international community is trying to give it," Rice said.
Natsios said he expects Sudan to accept a presidential statement submitted to the United Nations reaffirming the U.S. commitment to the peace agreement.
He also praised China for its efforts to advance negotiations for peace in Sudan, which has large, unexplored oil reserves. However, Natsios said, the U.S. interest in the region is not oil, but to see that human rights and humanitarian standards are upheld.
Natsios said he welcomed Sudan’s two-year extension of an accelerated procedure that allows nongovernmental organizations and U.N. aid workers to get into Darfur.
He also said he has offered to be an “intermediary” between Sudan and neighboring Chad. Rising violence in Darfur, which borders Chad, is spilling over into Chad, endangering its citizens and threatening to destabilize a larger area.
For a peace agreement in Darfur to be successful, Natsios said, militant groups will have to be disarmed. Because of violence in the region he did not meet with any rebel leaders as he had planned, he added.
Natsios said he was pleased with the recent appointment of Jan Eliasson, former Swedish foreign minister, as a U.N. special envoy for Darfur to deal with the humanitarian and security crisis. Eliasson, who was president of the 60th U.N. General Assembly, will assume his duties at the beginning of 2007. His main task will be to "work the diplomatic channels" outside Sudan to encourage governments to remain engaged in the issue, said outgoing Secretary-General Kofi Annan.
Natsios said he plans to return to Sudan in January 2007 but that details of that trip will be determined by what happens by January 1, 2007. (See related article.)
A transcript of remarks by Natsios and Rice after their meeting is available on the State Department Web site, as is a transcript of Rice’s December 18 interview.
For further information on U.S. policy, see Darfur Humanitarian Emergency.
(USINFO is produced by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)
By Kathryn McConnell
USINFO Staff Writer