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Statement on Darfur

Andrew S. Natsios, U.S. Presidential Envoy
Sirte, Libya
October 27, 2007

First, we would like to thank Libya and the Leader for hosting this important event, the beginning of a negotiation process that we hope will bring an end to the terrible suffering that the people of Darfur have endured for too long.

We would also like to thank the UN and the AU, and my friends Jan Eliasson and Dr. Salim Ahmed Salim, and Chairman Alpha Omer Konare for leading this mediation process and for their continued efforts in bringing a peaceful solution to this terrible conflict.

I would like to speak today to the people of Darfur, to the military commanders of the movements, and to the political leaders of the movements.

We in the international community are pursuing two paths for ending the violence and creating an environment where the people of Darfur can live peacefully and begin to rebuild their lives: a robust and effective UN and AU hybrid peacekeeping force and a sustainable political settlement.

In fact that is what the UN resolution calls for: the UN/AU hybrid force to implement a future peace agreement.

Under a historic UN resolution overwhelming adopted in September 2005 called the right to protect, the first responsibility for protecting the people of a country is its own government.

When that government fails to protect its own people then the international community through the UN has the responsibility to intervene to protect these people.

Sovereignty is not absolute.

Stabilizing Darfur to enable reconstruction, economic development, and reconciliation requires that both elements—the peacekeeping force and a political settlement--be pursued vigorously and simultaneously.

Some of the movements demand preconditions be met before negotiations start, but their preconditions are all of the issues which are to be negotiated.

If all these issues were resolved, there would be no need for the negotiations in the first place.

We are here to create the environment for the movements and the Sudanese government to negotiate these issues—security, disarmament, compensation, power and wealth sharing, reconstruction and development, land rights, and livelihoods.

A political settlement dealing with these issues cannot be implemented when there is widespread insecurity.

Conversely, a peacekeeping force will be less effective unless there is a sustainable and respected political settlement that ensures the cooperation of the parties.

The UN and AU are working tirelessly to secure commitments from both African and non-African governments to provide troops and equipment for UNAMID so the force can deploy as quickly as possible.

Yet governments are legitimately reticent to endanger their soldiers to support a peacekeeping operation where there is not an inclusive and accepted peace settlement being implemented.

Troop contributing countries will not countenance a repeat of the egregious October 6 attack on the AMIS camp in Haskanita that cost the lives of 10 peacekeepers.

We must also recognize that a peacekeeping force alone will not bring security, will not bring reconstruction and development, will not bring reconciliation, will not bring Darfurians a greater voice in Sudan’s political life, and will not bring compensation to the millions of Darfurians who have suffered as a result of this conflict.

These goals—the goals of the people of Darfur—can only be reached through a political settlement that the peacekeeping force can then support and reinforce.

Commitment by the parties to a cessation of hostilities is a critical first step in moving toward these goals and fulfilling the promise of a better future for the people of Darfur and for all of the people of Sudan.

As the negotiating phase of the peace process begins, we have the opportunity in the coming days to establish a framework for bringing the parties into constructive dialogue.

Both the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and the Darfur Peace Agreement can guide us in establishing an effective mechanism to achieve the aspirations of Darfur’s people within a unified, prosperous, and democratic Sudan.

The international community is committed to serving as the guarantor for a lasting political settlement for Darfur and to pressing the parties to fulfill their respective obligations.

But a political settlement can only be reached if it includes all of the parties with significant political and military influence in Darfur, including Arab tribes, and is supported by the people of Darfur.

We know from studies that 50% of all peace agreements following a civil conflict fail during the implementation phase, but a 50% success rate is enough to encourage us to try in Darfur."

As we have learned from past experience, agreements that are not supported by the influential groups in Darfur are difficult to implement and will fail to end the suffering of Darfur’s population.

We believe it is essential that civil society in Darfur participate in negotiating a peace settlement—traditional leaders on all sides of the conflict, IDPs, women's groups, and Sudanese NGOs.

We cannot arrive at a settlement that addresses the concerns of Darfur’s people—security, compensation, and an equitable share of the governance and wealth of Sudan—unless the parties are willing to participate in a negotiating process and are committed to its outcomes.

And we cannot arrive at a settlement that holds the parties—the Government of Sudan and the movements--accountable for their actions unless they are willing to participate in a negotiating process and are committed to its outcomes.

I commend the Government of Sudan for their ceasefire; however, the Sudanese Government has violated many ceasefire agreements in the past. We know that the Sudanese government has done terrible things to the people of Darfur, but some of the rebel gorups are responsible for violence against non-military targets themselves. In fact of the four major military incidents in June, July, August and September all were started by rebel militias which then the Sudanese military responded to with brutal force.

A critical measure of success will be the voluntary return of people displaced by the conflict to their land, consistent with international humanitarian law.

The UN and AU, supported by the international community, can and should provide a framework to bring about these results, but they cannot bring peace unless the parties commit themselves, without reservation, to the process.

Thank you.



Released on October 31, 2007

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