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Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York

24 January 2006

Briefing correspondents today at Headquarters immediately following his open briefing to the Security Council, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres, said that the Sudan-Chad situation was the most challenging humanitarian problem in the world today, but with the necessary political will and sufficient resources, the problem could be solved.

Stressing that the African Union was not properly funded in the Darfur region of the Sudan, he said it was not up to the UNHCR to take decisions on that matter -– that was a matter for the Security Council itself. But one thing was clear -- if there was a decision today for the United Nations to intervene in Darfur, it would take months for such a decision to be implemented. “And the problems are now”, he said. (For details of the Commissioner’s briefing to the Security Council and the ensuing exchange of views, see Press Release SC/8618.)

He said that the easiest solution, and immediate requirement, was to provide the African Union with enough resources to make its presence credible in Darfur. Taking those decisions was not the business of the UNHCR, however, which was involved in humanitarian action for refugees. Establishing the political framework was up to the Security Council, the General Assembly, and the Secretary-General. The only thing that mattered was that it worked.

The key concern now was to make sure that the whole of the international community united in putting pressure on the parties for a peace agreement, he said. It was hoped last summer that a peace agreement would flow from the Abuja talks, but, unfortunately, that had not happened. The contradictions on the ground were huge, and if pressure was not brought to bear on all the different actors, then a peace agreement might not materialize. “And, that would be a disaster”, he added.

Once there was a peace agreement, conditions could be established for a complex, but relevant and absolutely essential, reconciliation process in Darfur, he continued. It was crucial that that be supported by an international force with enough credibility to show those who wanted to undermine peace that that would no longer be possible. The instability in Darfur was quickly having an impact in Chad. The recent events along the border were extremely worrying, and the UNHCR had had to relocate some of its staff. There were more than 200,000 refugees at the Chadian border, and a situation of military confrontation in the region would be a “total humanitarian disaster”. Everybody involved should be aware of that, and the international community must understand how the two problems were related.

Responding to questions, Mr. Guterres said the Security Council could only succeed if its members united in action. Hopefully, the situation in Chad-Darfur and the problems in the Great Lakes and elsewhere were so compelling that he saw no reason why all the Council members could not unite, not only through its resolutions, but also through its activities, namely bringing pressure to bear on the parties to guarantee peace. He was hopeful that in the most difficult scenarios -- about which he spoke to the Council today -- the members would be effective. Surely, the Secretary-General had a lot of initiatives in that regard, and if fully supported by the Council, those initiatives would be fortified.

Considering the situations in Chad and the Sudan, he did not think there was any reason for any conflict of interest for any relevant country in the world today; peace there would benefit everyone. It was important to fully engage everybody in creating the conditions for peace. Today was not the same framework as in the cold war, where peace could be counterproductive to the interests of some relevant partners in the world community. Today, everyone was interested in a peaceful resolution, and everyone should be deeply committed to that.

The United Nations could only do what its member countries wanted it to do, he replied to another question. The Organization had the capacity, provided it had sufficient political will and resources, to effectively engage in solving the problems in the Sudan and Chad and to pursue implementation of the peace efforts in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The African Union was making a remarkable effort in the Sudan, particularly in Darfur, but it did not have the necessary resources, or, as a consequence of that, credibility in Darfur. The United Nations had the framework, the Secretary-General had the leadership, so it was a question of political will and sufficient resources. Then, the problem could be solved, and the United Nations could be a very useful instrument in that process.

Presently, there were two things that needed to work: the peace talks in Abuja, for which pressure was necessary; and a credible military presence in Darfur, for which the African Union needed to be supported.

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For information media • not an official record

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