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 You are in: Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs > Bureau of Public Affairs > Bureau of Public Affairs: Press Relations Office > Press Releases (Other) > 2006 > September
Special Briefing
Office of the Spokesman
New York, New York
September 22, 2006


On-the-Record Briefing With Special Envoy for Sudan Andrew S. Natsios and Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Jendayi Frazer

MR. NATSIOS: It was a meeting of 27 countries from all regions and I thought it was very, very useful. There seems to be unanimity of opinion on several issues. One is that we need to work on a political settlement; that is to say, on the issue of the implementation of the peace accords and the rebels joining in, one; two, there needs to be a resolution of the concerns that the Sudanese Government has about the UN troops coming in. There seemed to be some support from different quarters for a diplomatic solution to that stalemate right now.

The third issue that came up repeatedly was that if the AMIS force is to extend beyond September 30th that there needs to be more support for the force. Some of the troops arenít getting paid. There isnít equipment available. Some of itís been held up at the Port of Sudan and several of the African countries that have contributed troops were properly concerned that if theyíre being asked to continue their duties that they need to get more support.

And the last issue is something that Dr. Rice has brought up, the Danish Foreign Minister brought up and a number of other leaders did as well, and that is that a very large number of people now are cut off entirely from humanitarian assistance and from the NGOs, the UN agencies, the ICRC, are now being cut off from access to these populations. People who live in camps have to have the support of these agencies or theyíre going to die. They donít grow their own food because theyíre in a displaced camp. The fighting now has reached such a point that their lives are in danger, not just from the violence but even more dangerously in a larger scale from a humanitarian disaster of the kind we saw in 2003 and 2004. And everybody seemed to be very disturbed at the prospect of having another large-scale loss of life that we cannot Ė we should not Ė accept. So I think thatís a broad summary of the issues.

QUESTION: Iím sorry, were you going to say something, too?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRAZER: No, I wasnít. Do you want me to say something? (Laughter.)

MR. NATSIOS: Go ahead, Jendayi.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRAZER: The only thing I would add is that every country underscored the unacceptability of the situation as currently taking place in Darfur; that indeed it is a humanitarian tragedy in that it requires the action of the international community to help the Government of Sudan to resolve; and that we needed to work together, intensify our diplomacy, to convince President Bashir to allow the UN transition to take place; and that we should work very much in support of the African Union both in terms of its peacekeeping forces but also its diplomatic efforts to try to bring that pressure to bear on President Bashir.

QUESTION: Was there any discussion of the comments Bashir made on Tuesday about the aid situation being exaggerated or the humanitarian crisis being exaggerated, and also, you know, his insistence that there would be no UN force, you know, peacekeepers there? Did anyone bring up that, you know, his recent comments this week?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRAZER: No one brought up his comments this week.

QUESTION: Well, so, I mean, where do you go from there if you have such an insistence publicly from him?

MR. NATSIOS: Well, I think sometimes in not just this, in any crisis, there are public statements made and then there are different statements made privately. And I think thereís enough in the conversations that are being held with the Sudanese Government quietly to work with in terms of fashioning some kind of a compromise.

QUESTION: Youíre getting signals privately?

MR. NATSIOS: We are.

QUESTION: You are getting signals privately?

MR. NATSIOS: Weíre getting signals that this is a possibility. Iím not saying anythingís -- nothing is about to happen.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. NATSIOS: But I think there is enough to work with.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, Iíd like to follow up on the issue of resolving these concerns by the Sudanese Government. Youíve been talking to them for months now. You know, people have gone out. Jendayi went out. Youíve been talking to them about this force for months. And my understanding from the meeting was that there was Ė

MR. NATSIOS: I donít think itís actually months. Itís weeks.

QUESTION: Well, okay. Even before the resolution, I mean, the idea of getting a UN force in has been talked about since the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. So my understanding from the meeting was that there was a focus not only any measures, any tough measures to get Khartoum Ė

MR. NATSIOS: You mean the meeting we just had?

QUESTION: -- to put the force in and more on this issue of diplomacy and allaying their concerns and trying to make them feel more comfortable with a force. And given that everyone Ė what everyone in this Administration has said about whatís going on in Darfur and that the regime is responsible, maybe you could just explain. I donít understand why he needs to feel good about it. Why arenít there tougher measures being considered to put the squeeze on this guy?

MR. NATSIOS: Do you want to Ė (laughter).

ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRAZER: Well, let me say that I think that the feeling there is that time has run out and is running out. There was an emphasis on the, you know, welcoming that the AU extended its mandate to give one last diplomatic effort, is the way I would put it, to persuading President Bashir that itís necessary to have this transition to a UN force.

I think that the character of that diplomatic effort wasnít really discussed in this meeting very much in terms of what would be the measures taken. There wasnít any talk of whether they would be greater pressure in sanctions or whether there would be greater pressure in incentives. What was talked about is letís go and have a united front to discuss with him the necessity of accepting the transition. And I would imagine that in the room we will have more work to do to sort out the mixture of sanctions, pressure and reassurances to persuade him that in fact there is no other route to solving the crisis in Darfur than to have this UN transition. But there was no one who departed from the need for the transition and I think thatís important.

MR. NATSIOS: Let me just add, in these kinds of meetings, having been to them for a very long time, you donít get into the details of exactly how youíre going to do this. You do that in smaller groups. This meeting was to get a sense of where member-states were, whether they were willing to support a more robust diplomacy and more aggressive action to deal with it. And I think Jendayi is right, there was a real sense of that even from countries that we didnít think were necessarily out in front on this issue. So thatís --

QUESTION: So what did you Ė whatís going to happen between now and October when, like, the group meets again, I mean, beyond the African Union talking to them and trying to Ė

MR. NATSIOS: There are a number of things going on right now. If we start discussing them, the chances of them succeeding will diminish. So there is some time for public statements, some times for quiet diplomacy.

QUESTION: Yes. Many African or many Arab nations such as Egypt, while they support a UN force but they donít support to impose a UN force without the agreement of the Sudanese Government. Did you discuss at all whether some of these countries would be prepared to support the UN going in without the support of the Sudanese Government? Did that come up?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRAZER: No, that didnít come up because the focus was on the diplomatic effort to get the Government of Sudan to accept the transition. Weíve said many times practically it would be very difficult to deploy the UN, to re-hat the African forces, without the consent of the government, but that 1706 does not require that consent. But no, it wasnít discussed in this meeting.

QUESTION: Right, because the U.S. has made that very clear that itís not a requirement that Sudan accept it.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRAZER: Thatís right.

QUESTION: Did any countries raise that? Did any countries raise that, that itís not a requirement that (inaudible) agree with that aspect of it?

MR. NATSIOS: No.

QUESTION: Thereís been a lot of rumors that President Bush and President Bashir would meet. Is there any truth to that, that perhaps you carried a message to him when you went over there that he could meet with Bush?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRAZER: Not under the current circumstances with a military offensive and a rejection of the UN peacekeeping operation. There could not be any meeting under these circumstances that they have, and as a result there was no meeting.

QUESTION: You donít think it would help?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRAZER: Not under the current circumstances of a military offensive and not allowing the transition. What would be the point, you know, of such a meeting? President Bush would say to President Bashir what he has said throughout, which is there has to be a UN transition and that the military offensive has to stop and that we will continue to support the Darfur Peace Agreement. And thatís one issue that did come up in the meeting that we didnít mention before, which is there was also a discussion of the need to get the non-signatories on board, including the possibility of sanctioning those who are spoilers to this process.

QUESTION: But when President Bush says that if the Sudanese Government does not allow the force in that the international community must act, what does that mean beyond Ė

MR. NATSIOS: Weíre going to leave that vague for now.

QUESTION: But you will say that youíre considering other measures?

MR. NATSIOS: Weíre considering a diplomatic solution now. If that doesnít work, then we go to another approach.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRAZER: And the Presidentís statement was the United Nations must act. That was the Presidentís actual statement was that the United Nations must act.

QUESTION: Oh, thatís what Ė did I say the Ė

ASSISANT SECRETARY FRAZER: And so Ė yeah, you said the international community. The President was saying that the United Nationsí credibility is once again on the line and the United Nations must act. Part of this issue is that the United Nations itself has said that it cannot show up until January 1. Thatís a problem. We need to transition sooner than January 1. And so we need to get UNDPKO to prepare to re-hat the transition to African Union forces. The African Union has said to us part of the reason why they were in a position of needing to extend their mandate is that the UN has said itís not prepared to show up until January 2007, and we have said to the UN and the President has said: Why is it taking so long to deploy a UN force multilaterally into Darfur? It took much less time into Lebanon. Why is it taking so long? Thatís the question that the international community must ask.

QUESTION: Did Qatar indicate what they were going to do? Because they did not support the resolution.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRAZER: Well, they did support the resolution.

QUESTION: They abstained.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRAZER: They abstained. They had an opportunity to vote against it and they chose not to. And I was in and out of the, you know, the translation. I didnít hear Qatar --

MR. NATSIOS: I didnít either.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRAZER: -- say anything against what was basically the consensus of the room, which is that a transition has to occur, diplomacy is required to convince Bashir to accept that outcome and we canít accept the humanitarian situation thatís there today.

QUESTION: Just one more. On this AMIS Ė the idea of an AMIS plus, President Bashir has not only said that the UN canít come in but that all extra troops had to be African. Do you sense that there could be a softening of that position, that perhaps other countries that arenít African could in the meantime beef up the force, and where will they come from?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRAZER: Well, I certainly would hope that the forces that would go in Ė you know, that AMIS could be, you know, augmented. But the fact of the matter is AMIS is starved of resources. It needs greater organizational capability. It needs more logistical support. And so putting more bodies on the ground without the elements to support them is not going to make for a more effective peacekeeping force.

MR. NATSIOS: Part of the reason that the AMIS force has not been adequately equipped is because the Sudanese Government is holding up the equipment at Port Sudan. So thereís a little bit of contradiction in the Sudanese Governmentís comments.

I might also add that one of the things that was discussed at this is that informal meetings will be held apparently very shortly of potential troop-contributing countries to define more clearly what their commitments would be if the Government of Sudan did agree to this because we donít want to do this sequentially, we want to do this in parallel, with the preparations being made to move the troops and get the commitments at the same time weíre convincing them to allow the troops in. If we do these things sequentially, then weíll be here forever. And people are dying now and Jendayiís right, we need to resolve this now.

2006/859



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