Home | News    Thursday 18 November 2004

Security Council agrees on Sudan resolution as foes pledge imminent deal

NAIROBI, Nov 18 (AFP) — UN ambassadors on Thursday evening agreed here unanimously on the text of a resolution aimed at restoring peace to war-ravaged Sudan, as the country’s main foes promised to conclude talks on their 21-year-old conflict by the end of the year.

Sudan’s People Liberation Army leader John Garang (top) looks on during a Security Council meeting in Nairobi November 18, 2004. (Reuters).

Earlier Thursday, UN chief Kofi Annan told the Security Council "there is no time to waste" in solving Sudan’s crises, and called on the ambassadors "send an urgent message" to this effect to warring parties.

"We just finished a discussion of the draft resolution and all 15 members of the Council are in agreement so it will be adopted tomorrow," Council President John Danforth told reporters after the first day of a special session of the Council in Nairobi.

Although the war that began in 1983 between Khartoum and the southern-based Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) has been on hold pending talks in the Kenyan town of Naivasha for the last two years, a separate devastating rebel conflict has raged in the western region of Darfur since February 2003.

Danforth explained that the main thrust of this new resolution was to pressure Khartoum and the SPLM/A to cap the Naivasha talks with a comprehensive peace accord.

According to a copy of the draft obtained by AFP, it calls for an end to attacks against civilians in Darfur and dangles the prospect of massive development aid once the Naivasha talks are clinched.

"I think it is a good balanced resolution... It is one that clearly recognises the tragedy of Darfur and the fact that we have already passed two resolutions on this subject," added Danforth.

The US ambassador was the driving force behind the document and the decision to have the Council meet outside its New York headquarters for the first time in 14 years.

Earlier resolutions carried the threat of sanctions against Khartoum if it failed to rein in pro-governement militias widely accused of committing flagrant human rights abuses in Darfur, and these threats remain in force, subject to a fresh Council decision.

The UN describes the situation in Darfur as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. Tens of thousands of people have been killed and some 1.6 million driven from their homes.

Danforth announced that Khartoum and the SPLM/A would on Friday promise the Council in writing to wrap up their negotiations, which have already delivered crucial power and wealth sharing protocols, by the end of the year.

Addressing the Council in Nairobi, SPLM/A leader John Garang said he was committed to the new year-end deadline.

"I see no reason, no serious obstacle, that would prevent us from signing the final peace agreement by the end of this year 2004," he said.

While his negotiating counterpart, Sudanese Vice President Ali Osman Taha, only spoke of signing "as soon as possible," a government official told AFP earlier this week that Khartoum was also committed to signing by the end of the year.

What remains to be ironed out, said Danforth, is limited to "almost a math problem" about which side pays for rebel fighters who do not join regular government forces after the peace settlement.

He added that the latest resolution was "based on the belief that is almost universally accepted that the resolution of Naivasha is critical to the resolution of Darfur."

There was some debate among Council members over how firm a stand the resolution should take against Khartoum and over the threat posed by Sudan’s crises to international security.

China, Russia, Pakistan and Algeria, who abstained from the July resolution that threatened sanctions, favoured a softer stance.

When asked to comment on reports that the China and Russia’s position might be linked to their commercial interests to oil-rich and arms-hungry Sudan, Kofi Annan stressed the importance of the common good.

"The Council as a whole should look at the broader interests of the international community," he told a news conference before the draft was finalised.

"National interests should not be a dominant issue," he said, otherwise "it is not good for the credibility of the Council."