Blair urges the world to take action on Darfur
|The Times, 18 Septembre 2006|
TONY BLAIR has called for the international community to isolate the Sudanese Government if it fails to end the slaughter in Darfur.
As a dozen countries marked International Day for Darfur, the Prime Minister sent a letter to European leaders suggesting that the European Union should play a central role in peace efforts.
Mr Blair criticised the Sudanese Government for rejecting a UN peacekeeping force and accused it of breaking ceasefire arrangements. Mr Blair has called for further pressure to be applied to the Government and rebel groups who have failed to sign up to the peace agreement reached in May.
He made his call as Christian, Muslim and Jewish leaders prayed outside Downing Street and protesters demonstrated outside the Sudanese Embassy.
In his letter, which was also sent to José Manuel Barroso, the President of the European Commission, Mr Blair insisted that the international community could not turn its back on the tragic situation. It is thought that about 200,000 people have been killed, and more than two million have fled their homes since 2003 when ethnic African tribes revolted against the Arab-led Khartoum Government.
Mr Blair said that the peace agreement provided a framework for seeking a peaceful solution. He said: “We should also call on the rebel groups who have so far failed to sign up, to do so; and on the Government of Sudan and other parties to implement the agreement.”
Mr Blair also called upon the EU to back his demand for a UN peacekeeping force to be allowed to take over from the African Union mission. He said: “We should urge the Government of Sudan to . . . make the right decisions to protect the people of Darfur, and put Sudan back in its rightful place at the heart of the family of nations. If it responds we should commit to provide substantial support for reconstruction and peace through debt relief and aid.
“But this window should not remain open forever. And if it fails to move, we should agree further measures to isolate and pressure.”
President al-Bashir of Sudan has accused the UN, particularly Western states, of wanting to recolonise the country and has given warning that any attempt to impose such a force would be resisted.
Mr Blair’s intervention came as Mr Bashir agreed to attend a UN meeting on Darfur, opening the way for further talks. Kofi Annan, the Secretary-General of the UN, said last week that there would be “yet more death and suffering, perhaps on a catastrophic scale” if the Government in Khartoum did not allow international peacekeepers into the region.
Mr Bashir said that he would “interact” with the UN Security Council over the issue and attend a summit of the African Union’s peace and security council, according to President Mbeki of South Africa. “President Bashir wasn’t going to go to New York but we discussed matters with him and he agreed that he would go to New York so that he can participate in that meeting,” Mr Mbeki said.
On Saturday, Mr Bashir repeated his rejection of a UN force, at a summit of non-aligned nations in Havana.