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01 July 2004

Darfur is "Humanitarian Catastrophe," Powell Says

Secretary of State warns that Darfur is also a security crisis

"We have a humanitarian catastrophe in Darfur, but what we really have is a security crisis," U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell told reporters June 30 as he pledged additional U.S. assistance for those suffering in the western region of Sudan.

Speaking at the Khartoum airport along with Sudan's Minister of Foreign Affairs Mustafa Osman Ismail, Powell said, "We have to fix the security situation in order for the humanitarian situation to resolve itself."

Powell said he was "impressed" by the work that is being done by the international community to provide assistance for those Darfurians who are now living in camps, but cautioned, "Not all of them are being cared for yet."

Most importantly, Powell said as he prepared to leave Sudan, "we don't want to keep people well-fed in camps, we want them to go back home. And in order for them to go home, security has to be dealt with ... .

"In the very candid conversations I had with Sudanese leaders," Powell told reporters, "especially with the foreign minister, we came to the common understanding that Jingaweit must be controlled, they must be broken, they must be kept from perpetrating acts of violence against the civilian population.

"The Sudanese military and police forces must provide a secure environment for the camps and for the entire countryside so people can return to their homes, rebuild and start a new life."

Political reconciliation is also needed in Sudan, he said.

Powell summed up his visit to Sudan, which included a trip to Darfur, as being "productive," and reminded everyone that the United States is the largest contributor of financial and humanitarian assistance to Sudan.

Following is the transcript of Powell's news conference at the Khartoum Airport and remarks by Sudan's Minister of Foreign Affairs Ismail:

(begin transcript)

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Office of the Spokesman
(Jakarta, Indonesia)
July 1, 2004

PRESS BRIEFING

Remarks By Secretary of State Colin L. Powell
And Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail of the Republic of Sudan
After Their Meetings at the Airport

Khartoum Airport
Khartoum, Sudan

June 30, 2004

SECRETARY POWELL: We just finished a very interesting 24-hour period here in Sudan with meetings with Kofi Annan, the Secretary General, he has just arrived and met with first Vice President Osman Taha. I'd like to thank my Sudanese colleagues, especially the Foreign Minister for all the time they have given to me.

The purpose of my trip was to talk first about the progress we have achieved in recent months with the Lake Naivasha negotiations, resulting in the signing of protocols, and now the beginning of security talks, leading ultimately to comprehensive discussions. We hope that these discussions will lead to the complete peace and reconciliation that the Sudanese people deserve and want, coming in the near future.

At the same time, however, I had to come and express my concern to the government of Sudan over the situation in Darfur. We had very extensive, very candid and very open discussions. I've had a chance also to meet with tribal leaders, with leaders of the NGO organizations who are doing such marvelous work out in the field and in the camp that I visited. I also had a chance to meet with General Okonkwo, who is the head of the African Union Monitoring Group that is here -- a distinguished officer who did great work in Liberia last year, and that monitoring team now is just starting to get up and running.

And then, of course, it was a very moving experience to tour the camp and see the wonderful work being done by ICRC [International Committee of the Red Cross], World Food Program, Oxfam and so many other dedicated organizations.

I come away from this trip with an understanding that we have a humanitarian catastrophe in Darfur, but what we really have is a security crisis. We have to fix the security situation in order for the humanitarian situation to resolve itself. People are in camps because of the violence in villages, in the countryside, which causes them to flee their homes and go to the camps. And I'm impressed by the work that is being done by the international community to provide for these people in the camps. Not all of them are being cared for yet, and in our conversations with Secretary-General Annan, the Secretary-General gave me some indication of how rapidly the UN and NGO organizations will be staffing themselves up in order to provide assistance to more people.

But we don't want to keep people well-fed in camps, we want them to go back home. And in order for them to go home, security has to be dealt with and in the very candid conversations I had with Sudanese leaders, especially with the Foreign Minister, we came to the common understanding that Jingaweit must be controlled, they must be broken, they must be kept from perpetrating acts of violence against the civilian population. The Sudanese military and police forces must provide a secure environment for the camps and for the entire countryside so people can return to their homes, rebuild and start a new life.

While that is happening, while the security environment is being improved, then we will do everything we can to support the international community in the provision of assistance to these people.

It is also clear that a political reconciliation is needed. After candid conversations, I was pleased with the attitude of the government of Sudan, a willingness to get engaged as quickly as possible in the political reconciliation process under the auspices of the African Union.

We also discussed the role of the monitoring force that is here under the auspices of the African Union and hopefully they will be building up their strength and capacity and be able to set up offices throughout Darfur to monitor the situation.

The Minister and I, and the Vice President and I, went over specific items that could be done in the days and weeks ahead to improve the security situation and the humanitarian situation. I'm pleased at the response that we have received from the Sudanese government, and I'm sure the Minister will wish to say a word about that.

So, it's been a productive visit. The United States will contribute additional funds to the humanitarian effort. We're the largest contributor of financial and humanitarian assistance to the Sudan and we will continue to be so. I'm going to be encouraging other nations who have made commitments to Sudan to match those commitments with actual funds on the ground that can be used to benefit the Sudanese people. So, Mr. Minister, I thank you and all of your colleagues for your hospitality and I invite you to come forward.

FOREIGN MINISTER ISMAIL: Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary-General. I'd like to welcome the Secretary-General to this very important visit to the Sudan and to Darfur. As you all know, the Secretary-General met with the President, with the Vice President...

QUESTION: Secretary of State!

(Laughter)

SECRETARY POWELL: Secretary. General.

(Laughter)

FOREIGN MINISTER ISMAIL: ...Secretary of State, had deep discussions with the President, with the Vice President, with myself and also he had the chance to go to the camps to meet IDPs and the national and local NGO officials there.

I'd like to confirm and to acknowledge what the Secretary of State mentioned, that in the coming days we are going to concentrate more and more on three things.

Number one on the security issues: we will do our best in the timetable manner to bring more police forces and more armed forces so that we will combat any militias, Jingaweit, for the protection of civilians.

Secondly, also, we are going to be lifting any restrictions on humanitarian aids, any accessory, (inaudible) is going to be very fast track so that we can catch Darfur before the rainy season.

Thirdly we are going to enhance, to speed the political negotiation, in close cooperation with the African Union. Hopefully then in a very short time we are going to reach an agreement with (inaudible) and this together with (inaudible) and also with the UN as to the situation in Darfur will come (inaudible).

Once again, I would like to thank the Secretary of State for this very important visit and I would like to assure him of our full cooperation with the United States, with the international community, with the UN, with the NGOs and hopefully as quickly as possible the situation in Darfur will come to normal. And I hope that the second visit of the Secretary of State to Darfur will be different. Thank you very much.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, you said that (inaudible). Did you give them a time frame in which you'd like to see them implemented?

SECRETARY POWELL: Yes, in our conversations, we made it clear that in order for the international community to be assured that these things would happen, it was important that we have the time frame that specific actions would be taken within that time frame. We came up with a number of specific items on the list and its something that we will be able to monitor and see the speed with which humanitarian aid flows; the speed with which visas are issued; the speed with which humanitarian vehicles and other equipment coming into ports and airports are released, so that they can get to the humanitarian organizations; the speed at which the AU monitoring force will be able to go and size it. All of these things were discussed. We really talked in specifics and not just generalities, because as the Minister knows, the international community is anxious to see action in addition to an announcement and words.

QUESTION: What was the time frame?

SECRETARY POWELL: We will see things according to the timeline we discussed. We're talking about within days and weeks.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, if they don't satisfy those pledges that they made in the time frame that they said they are going, have you talked to them about what you feel the next step would be?

SECRETARY POWELL: I have made it clear to the Minister, in the spirit of openness and candor which he and I enjoy with one another, that the international community is going to remain engaged with this problem, seized with this problem, as that they say. And that there already has been consideration given to U.N. resolutions and that will always be a possibility unless the kind of performance we have discussed here today and the kind of commitments that the Minister has mentioned to you are actually executed and we see action.

QUESTION: (inaudible)

SECRETARY POWELL: The particular camp I went to was under good supervision. They had access to food, they had access to shelter, there was health care available. But that was just one camp. And obviously there are many other camps like that where people are being taken care of, but there are other camps that don't have that level of support. And we know that there are other areas in the country where people are located that the international community and the government have not been able to reach, who are probably in greater need.

And so, it is a complex picture. And you can't describe all of Darfur with one word. It is complex and the camp I saw today seemed to be very well managed and the international organizations that were there seemed confident in their ability to take care of the people there.

But it is not our goal to take care of the people there. It is our goal to get those people home. As long as they are in those camps, they are not in their villages planting crops. They are not rebuilding their homes. They are not digging their wells again. They are not putting up schools. They are not taking care of their children in the proper family environment. And that's our goal, and to achieve that goal, we need to create the security environment that is needed and that means we must break the hold of the Jingaweit and the other militias.

QUESTION: (inaudible)

FOREIGN MINISTER ISMAIL: Well, Secretary of State mentioned it, we have returned control (inaudible) situation and believe we can control security in Darfur with the resources which (inaudible) with a frame time which we discussed together. And I understand that the Secretary of State is here to help us (inaudible). We're going to seek support of the United States government, of the international community, (inaudible).

SECRETARY POWELL: I wanted to see a camp and I wanted to see people, and that's what I saw today. I have been around this business long enough. I have many, many years of experience in such matters. That not one single afternoon or one single image will I use to paint the whole picture. So, it was good to see what I saw today, good to see dedicated people taking care of thousands of people. And we have had lots of other sources of information: from diplomatic channels, intelligence channels, from the NGO community, and the Minister and I talked about this at considerable length. How do we work together -- the government of Sudan and the United States, the United Nations, other international organizations -- to paint a common picture that we all can agree upon. Debating with disagreements, trying to get the truth, so that we have a common picture that we all are all working off of and not arguing about.

Thank you.

(end transcript)

(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)



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