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PRESS CONFERENCE BY SECRETARY-GENERAL'S SPECIAL ENVOY FOR DARFUR

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

18 May 2007

The foundation for a credible political solution in Darfur was now established, even as pressure mounted for the consolidation of international support for the political process before emerging problems became irreversible under deteriorating conditions, Jan Eliasson, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Darfur, said at a Headquarters press conference this afternoon.

Speaking upon returning from a third visit to Sudan with Salim Ahmed Salim, his African Union counterpart, Mr. Eliasson said a “snapshot” of Darfur would show three or four refugee camps whose tens of thousands of inhabitants had been there for three years. It would also show the fear, dehumanization and fatigue that led to radicalization as arms began to flow in.

He said ravaged villages were marked by charred black squares on which houses had once stood, while an intact village, now occupied by a new tribe, was an indicator of the problems to come once the internally displaced began returning home. Due to the combination of fighting and drought, the sands of the north were taking over the grasslands of the south at the rate of eight to 10 kilometres a year. That exacerbated the intertribal clashes that were increasing in a dynamic not conducive to the negotiation process that was resolving differences between the Government and the rebels.

The Sudanese Government and many, if not all, rebel groups had committed themselves to a political solution based on the recognition that no military solution was possible, he said. That laid the framework for a build-up to negotiations on three points of difference: power-sharing, wealth-sharing and security. The negotiations proper would begin once a convergence of views had been achieved from a mixture of positions that now ran on parallel tracks between the Government and numerous rebel groups that continued to splinter. But that would only happen once those movements had consolidated their own negotiating positions in preparation for the broader process. That framework had been achieved through numerous meetings in the United Nations-African Union process forged in Tripoli, Libya.

Mr. Eliasson went on to say that, having visited Khartoum four times and Darfur three times, he and Mr. Salim had now also visited Juba. Neighbouring countries had been brought into the process, as had the five permanent members of the Security Council. The Secretary-General had committed fully to putting the process into “high gear” and capitalizing on the momentum of those efforts so as to yield a measure of results in mid-year. Given that Darfur was bigger than France or Sweden, and that Sudan had nine neighbours, the ramifications of events occurring on its territory had an impact on the whole region.

Asked how he could be certain that commitments to the political process would be met by both the Government and the multitude of splintering movements, he said political statements were being matched with events on the ground. It was impossible to negotiate in good faith while keeping up bombardments. The Government, having agreed to end the bombardments, had kept its word from 11 February to 19 April. The international commitment to the political process in Darfur must come in the form of consolidated efforts to facilitate the timely start of the negotiation process proper. The various rebel movements must also prepare themselves for negotiations, unify positions, and stop fighting. There was also a need to augment the 3,000-strong African Union force to ensure better monitoring and reporting so that those who violated their commitments would lose credibility. The peacekeeping effort must be kept up, even as the political process went forward and the emphasis shifted increasingly toward that phase.

In response to a question about the contradiction between commitment to the political process and fighting on the ground, Mr. Eliasson said the situation was enormously complex. As intertribal fighting increased and the numerous rebel movements lost control, even while progressing in negotiations with the Government, $700 million was being paid annually to 13,000 people to keep the situation in check because Darfur’s cultural, social, economic and environmental balance was lost. Any agreement required the support of the Sudanese people at large, that of the various tribes and that of those now living in camps, which were “very dangerous environments in which to grow up”.

As a result, he continued, the factors that must be brought together in Darfur must fit the circumstances on numerous levels. They had to be brought into line with the local as well as the national reality in terms of north and south Sudan. They had to fit into the regional picture with neighbours like Chad, and into the international context. Failure to address that situation would have regional and broader implications.

A correspondent raised the role of the media in galvanizing “trendy” global attention to the situation by obscuring the complexity of detail and presenting a comic book picture of an “evil”, genocidal Government that must be contained. Would that attention wane, leaving the situation unresolved as the stereotype faded?

The Special Envoy described the global media as part of the political picture, saying the important point for Darfur was that the Government and the rebel movements had committed themselves to a political process and there was an urgent need to take advantage of that quickly before a further outbreak of widening tribal hostilities could occur.

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For information media • not an official record



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