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 You are in: Bureaus/Offices Reporting Directly to the Secretary > Deputy Secretary of State > Former Deputy Secretaries of State > Former Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick > Remarks > 2005

Press Conference in Khartoum, Sudan

Robert Zoellick , Deputy Secretary of State
Khartoum, Sudan
July 9, 2005

DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: I apologize for keeping you all so late and I thank you for coming.

Kofi Annan made a point in his remarks today that I would probably endorse, which is that this is an important day in terms of the formation of a government of national unity in dealing with the issues of North and South in Sudan, but it's equally important that we connect it to the events in Darfur, and indeed to the challenges of peace and stability throughout all of Sudan. So I see this as an important day in terms of setting the course, but we need to continue to press forward to maintain the momentum. We need to identify particular problems to try to solve them. And for me it also over the past two days gives me the opportunity to see more of the issues, particularly yesterday when I was out in Darfur and also to listen to and learn from a number of colleagues.

In Darfur, the declaration of principles is an important step. Equally important is that the NATO alliance is now starting to bring in the African Union Forces, first with the Nigerians. The US will start to bring in the Rwandans in mid-July so we can expand the overall security presence. And we have been trying to emphasize in Darfur basic humanitarian needs - food, basic health supplies, while expanding the overall security arrangements. But a critical complement of that is moving forward in the Abuja talks. It's the humanitarian and security steps to just try to end the killing and create better a situation, but the long run depends on moving forward the Abuja process.

Yesterday was my third trip to Darfur; I tried to visit different parts to see different things and talk to different people. Yesterday I was in the Jebel Mara region, where I visited Golu and met with the AU Sector Commander Colonel Anthony Mundowe from Zambia. And then I also had a chance there to visit GOAL, which is a very impressive Irish based NGO, complemented by the Danish Relief Council and the Doctors without Borders. And GOAL has a project that I particularly wanted to see because it's focused on trying to keep people out of camps and in a position where theyíre in their villages and they get the seed and supplies to start to raise their own food again. But, obviously that depends on the overall security conditions. I also went to Deribat, where I had a chance to meet with a number of the SLA Commanders and had a chance to talk with them about the Abuja process and next steps going forward. So one of the key elements going forward which I extended in my discussions today is the security for the NGO's work. I'm sure you've had a chance to see the sacrifices that these people are making -- which is extremely impressive -- but they can only do so in an environment in which security is provided. I have also emphasized in a series of discussions particularly the issue of violence against women and suggesting some ways in which the new government can try to counter that.

Throughout that process, recognize that if we are going to try to achieve a goal here, the goal is not just to end the large scale violence, but to create a peaceful environment where people can voluntarily return to homes and in the process. We will also need to focus on a development strategy, just as one has as part of the North/South accord. In the North/South accord, the setting up of the Presidency Council for the Government of National Unity is a very important step, and as all of you know, it needs to be complemented over the course of the next 30 days by setting up the government itself with the various ministries. And so, in my discussions, I've been trying to get a sense of the plans, make some suggestions, for the importance of the follow-through, whether it be setting up the government of Southern Sudan -- and I've talked to Dr. Garang about some of the assistance that we plan to provide of that nature-- the Assessment and Evaluation Commission, which will be the key oversight body, and also issues ranging from food and supplies for the IDPs moving south, to also the condition of the IDPs in Khartoum and others, and making sure that there are no movements except those that are done voluntarily.

So while the focus has primarily been on North/South and on Darfur, Iíve also had a chance to have discussions about the Eastern region, where it's important that the parties -- both government and those outside the government -- follow the process that has been tried and developed for peace and reconciliation in the North/South context. And also I've had some opportunities today to try to focus on the Lord's Resistance Army. Particularly, I had a chance to talk about this with President Museveni, who I discussed this with about three or four weeks ago when we were in Kigali and had a chance to follow up today with Mr. Pronk on that but also Vice President Taha and First Vice President Garang. So in my meetings today, I was pleased on a day that was obviously very busy for the new members of the government, that First President Garang was able to take time, so I had a good session with him, Vice President Taha along with Foreign Minister Ismail. I was pleased that Kofi Annan was able to take some time this morning, and I had a much longer session with Jan Pronk just now. And as I mentioned, I had a chance to meet with President Museveni and also President Kibaki of Kenya.

So my sort of overall concluding thought is that today is a very important step, but it is vital that we focus on the next steps. Because whether it be the challenges in Darfur or the North/South accord or issues dealing with Eastern Sudan, there is still a lot of work ahead. This new government of national unity creates a new opportunity for the government of Sudan to take on these challenges in a way that demonstrates its interest in trying to create opportunity for all the people of Sudan: to make sure that the killing stops and make sure that people's needs are taken care of and that the focus of Sudan is on the development and human rights of all its people. And so I'm happy to take your questions.

QUESTION: (Inaudible).

DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: On the first question, which dealt with the conditions in Darfur. It's still a very terrible situation. You go and visit the people, whether they be in the villages or, in the past trips when I visited the camps, and your heart cannot help but go out to people. The UN has reported, and this is the fairest I can give you because they look over the whole region, that the mortality rates have come down somewhat. And I'm pleased that we and others have been able to provide food to try to make sure that people get the basic necessities. But the UN report also said it remains a very fragile situation, and that is certainly what I saw yesterday, where in some of the villages people still face the dangers of Jingaweed coming in and shooting over the villages or threatening them if they try to go to the fields. So I think that the government has pulled back its forces from acts of violence. I think you have regions now that are partly rebel-controlled and partly controlled by the government, and at least the report I got from both the NGOs and the African Union is that the danger points are in the intersections of those areas. Also, you have some problems that relate to some traditional migrations of herders moving through these areas Ė theyríe all armed. Sometimes they may or may not be associated with the Jingaweed and that creates a danger when people are trying to move in some of the regions, whether to get hospital support or others. I think that what I've seen and what I've heard and what has been reported elsewhere is that the presence of the African Union forces makes a significant difference. I have high regard for the African Union Commanders. I've gotten to know a number of them personally since I've come out three times over the past 12 weeks: the Nigerian General who commands overall, the Rwandan who is second in command. I think they are trying hard. I think it's good that their forces will be expanded very significantly, because I think where they are present, they make a big difference.

This will link to your, I think, second question on NATO. Iím pleased that NATO and the EU have also agreed to help support this, to try to bring the forces in. So, the US is bringing in Rwandan forces. I think Britain helped pay for bringing in the Nigerians. I think the French are going to help pay for the Senegalese to come in. The role of NATO is one of transportation and logistics. The only additional role that has been discussed is one of operational planning. But this is talking about 20 or 30 people, roughly, some on the ground here, some in Addis. Because one of the other lessons I learned on a prior trip is that if you have units that are having to operate at a platoon or at most, a company level for a big area, some of what NATO can share is its experience in terms of trying to plan operational capacities. But thereís been no interest in NATO and no interest in my country in having Western forces on the ground. And indeed, I think that would be the wrong step. I think the African Union forces are doing a good job. I think what Iíve been able to see, with some additional texture each time I go out, is how the African Union is playing a mediating role. And I will give you an example from yesterday which was that in one of the presentations, the Doctors Without Borders hospital explained that they werenít getting the number of patients that they hoped they could get. And they were trying to decide whether theyíd keep this hospital open, in a region that clearly needs a hospital and medical support. And so the Rwandan Commander actually talked with the government forces as well as some of the rebel forces to try to develop corridors for people to bring people into the hospital. Now thereís a rather telling story in this. Rwanda suffered genocide. And the Rwandans, who I have great respect for, have encountered problems in their own country. So in some ways they are better placed to talk to people in Sudan and try to say "These are your own people, donít you want to save their lives? Hereís how we can work with you to do so."So, I think the African Union is quickly expanding itís capability; I think this is good for the African Union as well as for Sudan.

Your third question? Accountability issue. Two things: the ICC process, as you know, is an independent UN process, with the prosecutors. While my country will cooperate as others will with that process, thatís a process that has its own course. We believe that there should be accountability for criminal actions taken that rise up to the level of the ICCís jurisdiction. I was actually also talking with Jan Pronk. The government has also started tribunal processes. And itís very important, since people may doubt the credibility of those tribunal processes, that they proceed in a way that shows they will also take action against people that have committed rapes and other attacks on individuals. And, so, I think itís a good step that the government has taken. Obviously, people will be skeptical until they see those courts in action. That is not a substitute for the ICC process, but it might be able to complement the process.

QUESTION: (Inaudible).

DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: Well first, since you represent the Sudanese press. I hope youíll be joined soon by your colleagues from the Khartoum Monitor and the Juba Pos. Since another point that I made is that it is important for a free press to be able to operate in the Sudan. As for the credibility of the mass media in the United States, you should ask them. I cannot speak for the credibility of the mass media in the United States. But I will say that I think that the cooperation with the Sudan on issues of terrorism has improved greatly, and we are pleased that Sudan has turned from a course where Sudan was hosting Usama bin Laden in the 1990ís, to one where it has recognized the dangers of terrorism. As for the recognition as a State Sponsor of Terrorism, as Iíve said to prior members of the government prior to today, obviously we have some other terrible issues that we have to deal with in the Sudan, but we want to continue together to work together on counter-terror issues. Some of the intelligence officials from Sudan traveled to the United States recently to do just that. People in the United States asked about the reverse item, did this suggest that the US is not focused on the events of Darfur and North-South, and the answer is absolutely not. The message was conveyed to those individuals the criticality of dealing with these topics. So I hope that today, with the Government of National Unity, actually gives us an opportunity to try to build. But it is not enough to form a government -- it will also depend on the actions of that government. One of the reasons that I wanted to come today, and that I was pleased my hosts were so generous as to share their time with me on such an important day, is to focus on some of the issues that we have to take up in the future.

You also asked about international terrorism. President Bush said shortly after September 11th that this is going to be a problem that is not going to be easy to solve. And I donít think people who go to a capital and murder innocent people is a sign whether you are succeeding or not because people can always do that. The challenge frankly is to bring the rest of the world together Ė Sudan, the United States, and others Ė to recognize that such people are nothing but blood-thirsty murderers and that the communities from which they come also need to take them on. Now, Iíve been pleased that King Abdullah of Jordan recently held a conference where he was talking of his belief and that of scholars of Islam that actually, terrorists stand very much against the values of Islam. The Egyptian Ambassador was apparently murdered by people speaking in the name of Islam. Iím not a Muslim, so I canít say these things in the way that other Muslims can, but I noted that the prior Prime Minister of Singapore, Goh Tok Chung, made what I thought was a very strong point last year. That this was a contest for the soul of Islam, and it will depend very much on Muslims to determine what sort of future they want to have. And I hope actually that if there can be a good thing that can come out of these terrible events is that it will draw people that share common values of civilization together to say that we must stop this.

QUESTION: Was the issue of lifting sanctions raised and was there a timeframe discussed?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: My Sudanese counterparts do raise the issue, and what I tell them is that the intensity of the feeling in the United States about the events -- first of the North-South struggle that killed over two million people and now, most importantly, the genocide of Darfur -- are so strong that while I see a path for improving relations, we need to do so step-by-step. I have tried to emphasize my countryís commitment by coming here thee times in twelve weeks, by trying to work on these issues with the Government of Sudan, by talking to the members now of the New Government of the Sudan, and suggesting an agenda, whether it be dealing with the Lordís Resistance Army, the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, violence against women in Darfur, making sure of their support. And there have been some good steps. The Government has welcomed the role of AU forces, the Government put out a statement accepting the role of NATO in the logistical role, not in the terms of military force. But there is certainly a lot more to do. But I pointed out that any action, whether it be harassment of NGOs, shutting down newspapers, a whole host of topics, will resonate very loudly in the West. Thatís why it is all the more important to take this opportunity for forming a new Government of National Unity and try to build on it constructively. Now, there are other ways the United States can help. We have tried to help with the Abuja Process. We have had Ambassador John Yates on the scene, playing the role of an observer. We are trying to work with closely with the AU mediator Salim Salim to pull the parties together. While Minister Salim deserves the credit, we were pleased to play a constructive role in that. When the events, a couple of weeks ago, started violence again with the Beija in the East, I was meeting with Foreign Minister Ismail in Washington to emphasize the need to keep calm and not to have a downward spiral. We also were in contact with some of the parties, both the Beija as well as the Eritreans. We want to make work what we see the outlines of here, which is to try to create a new path for Sudan, a path where all its people participate, where we create a constitutional framework, where one looks towards an election process and you create a development opportunity for all the people of the Sudan. Weíre working against a long history, one that has been Khartoum-centered and the regions have often suffered. But today was a good step in changing it, so we want to continue to encourage that.

QUESTION: Are there plans for a special envoy for Darfur? When will you normalize relations with the Sudan?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: Okay, on the issue of a special envoy, this is a question I get in the United States as well, and I think it partly reflects the good work that Ambassador Danforth, or Senator Danforth did with the North/South Accord. Frankly, over the past three to four months, Iíve been playing a role, in a way, as a special envoy. And that has certain advantages in our system, because I have an ability to reach across, to work with other countries from my other work, and also help make sure that my government can operate quickly and effectively on these issues as the situation changes. One of the other ideas is to try to consider how to get additional background and help. Iíve been helped by a number of people here who you can see in the back of the room who are more expert than I am, and there may be other opportunities to draw on such help in the future.

As for your second question, which was related to normalization. It really comes back to questions Iíve gotten on sanctions. This is a step-by-step process. I think the new Government of National Unity creates an opportunity for President Bashir, for First Vice President Garang, for Vice President Taha, to take the steps that will improve relations. We are improving some relations in terms of counter-terrorism. I am pleased that we tried to work with the government to expand the work of AU Forces that bring humanitarian aid in Darfur. But there is still a lot of work to be done there. People are living in very difficult conditions. My test for Darfur is whether there will be a peace that will allow people to return home voluntarily, that will allow people to resume their lives and allow us and others to help with the development process. Right now people are afraid because the Jingaweed threaten them if they leave the IDP camps or their villages. So that will be an issue that we need to address. We also need to follow through on the CPA Accord. Today was a very good step, but there are still many steps to go. I would say this: I think that the process has been headed in a very good direction. Past leaders of the Government of Sudan, and now leaders of the Government of National Unity, have a sense of the future that can be. And itís the role of the United States and others in the international community to try to help encourage that and back it. But ultimately these have to be decisions by the leaders and the people of Sudan.

QUESTION: How do you view the future of the U.S.-Sudanese relationship? Is there any chance of improvement?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: Of course there is a possibility for improvement. And the events of today are a good step. But we need to look for the actions that will back that step -- the actions in the North South accord, in the implementation, but also actions in Darfur. I was also pleased to see that in todayís events you had many people come from the Arab world and as well as the African world. And I think this shows a sign to the people of Sudan that people want this to succeed. They want this new process to work. But ultimately, its up to the new leaders of the Government of National Unity to make this work.

QUESTION: What do you think the government should do differently in Darfur?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: Well, itís a long list. I would start by saying that the most important would be Ö well, right now the task is to make sure that humanitarian supplies can come in, feed the people, get basic health and care. Expand the security arrangements, which are primarily done by the AU. And then support the Abuja Peace Process, which is not only the Governmentís role. This includes the SLA, and the JEM, and others. But thatís to create conditions where eventually people can return home in safety, and right now that doesnít exist. Right now there are dangers within IDP camps, where women canít be secure at night even within IDP camps. Thatís one reason the AU expansion includes civilian police forces -- to try to expand the protection of women in the camps. Itís a step-by-step, stage-by-stage process. To accomplish the peaceful return of people to their lands, the Government is going to have to deal with the question of the militias and the Jingaweed. Which right now, may not be in an active state Ė or offensive action -- but are still threatening people. I was in a village yesterday where they were still firing at people who were trying to only go out and plant their land. If weíre going to create an opportunity for people who have suffered enormously, we have to sustain them, secure them, create a peace process, and then we have to back it. This will also include tribal reconciliation. When Iíve gone to the region, Iíve tried to get a sense of the tribal groups, and whether they can still play the traditional roles they have played. I believe they can, but right now there is a very strong distrust. Among settled agriculturalists versus the herders, sometimes there have been ways worked out over the decades, if not the centuries, in terms of resolving disputes. But you canít do that now, because people are scared and distrustful. Thatís where one has to create a context, and obviously this is Sudanese territory, Sudanese sovereignty, Sudan has to be a core part of trying to change that environment. I will say that the framework created under the North South accord creates a model. Iím not saying it will be exactly the same. Each circumstance is different. But it creates a reconciliation of a twenty-one year old civil war where two million people died. So that can create a model not only for Darfur but for other regions of Sudan as well.

There has been a tremendous amount of pain and suffering in this country. All of you here for even a brief time know that. But I think that is one reason why you saw the public outpouring you did with the arrival of Garang and the formation of this government. Because people want to have a different life. They want to send their kids to school. I was in these very poor villages yesterday and one of the reasons that people want to grow these basic crops is so that they can pay their childrenís school fees. Andrew Natsios, our USAID Administrator, was telling me the story again that what people want is to make a better life for their children -- which is what people want all around the world. You canít do that if people are brutalized. Thatís where I think the possibility for hope lies, and I hope that all the leaders of Sudan have the message that this should be the course of the future.


Released on July 12, 2005

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