The crisis in the Darfur region of Sudan continues to be a matter of the gravest concern for the Government. While there have been some limited signs of progress on the political front, the security and humanitarian situation continues to deteriorate.
On 16 November 2006 in Addis Ababa, the UN Secretary General and the chairperson of the Commission of the African Union co-chaired a meeting of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and of a number of African states, including Sudan. The EU was represented by its special representative for Sudan. The meeting considered three areas: the need to re-energise the peace process, the establishment of a strengthened ceasefire and the way forward for peacekeeping in Darfur.
It was agreed that the UN and the African Union should within 15 days organise a meeting between the signatories and the non-signatories of the May 2006 Darfur peace agreement, with a view to reaching agreement before the end of 2006 on the amendments to this peace agreement which would enable the non-signatories to adhere to it. Former OAU Secretary General, Dr. Salim Salim, who chaired the Abuja peace negotiations, will lead this process.
The meeting also called on all parties to the conflict in Darfur to commit immediately to a cessation of hostilities to facilitate the continuation of the political process. The Government of Sudan was strongly urged to work with the non-signatories of the Darfur peace agreement on ceasefire related issues. Due to the regional dimensions of the conflict, Chad and Sudan were urged to stop hostilities along their common border in Darfur and respect previous peace commitments.
Taking account of the UN Secretary General's proposals for a phased approach towards a strengthened peacekeeping operation in Darfur, the meeting agreed on the expansion of the UN's provision of personnel, aviation and logistical support to AMIS, the African Union's ceasefire monitoring mission in Darfur. More significantly, agreement in principle was reached on the deployment of a hybrid AU-UN force in Darfur, capable of contributing to the restoration of security, the protection of civilians, ensuring full humanitarian access and implementing the security aspects of the Darfur peace agreement. However, important issues remain to be resolved, including the size of the force and its command, control and reporting arrangements.
Additional information not given on the floor of the House.
I welcome these developments, especially the agreement in principle on a hybrid UN-AU force. However, early acceptance by Sudan on the outstanding issues is essential. Sudan is to give its considered response at the next meeting of the African Union's Peace and Security Council on 29 November.
The UN and the AU are currently trying to reactivate the Darfur political process and are, in my view, best placed to do so, as distinct from an individual country initiative, however well intentioned. Ireland strongly supports their efforts. In pursuit of this, and given Egypt's major regional role and its significant weight in both the African Union and the Arab League, I wrote to the Egyptian Minister for Foreign Affairs on 17 November to urge his Government to bring every possible influence to bear on the Sudanese President to deliver on the Addis Ababa agreement.