Statement by the Minister of State for European Affairs, Joint Committee on European Affairs, 8 December 2004 Part IV
The humanitarian and political situation in Darfur remains a cause for serious concern. The Council last discussed this issue at its meeting on 22 November and, regrettably, the security situation has deteriorated since then. On Monday, Ministers will review the current situation on the ground and other developments since the special session of the UN Security Council held to discuss Sudan in Nairobi on 18/19 November. At that meeting, the Government of Sudan and the main rebel group in Darfur, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army or Movement, gave an undertaking to conclude negotiations on a comprehensive North/South peace agreement by 31 December 2004.
Despite the recent political progress in Nairobi and the agreement on adoption of security and humanitarian protocols at peace talks mediated by the African Union on 9 November, the security situation in Darfur has deteriorated in recent weeks. The African Union’s Ceasefire Commission has reported several violations of the ceasefire concluded between the Government of Sudan and the rebels on 8 April, with an increasing number being committed by the rebels rather than government forces. The deteriorating security situation has created difficulties for humanitarian operations in the areas affected although, generally, humanitarian access continues to be good. There have also been several forcible removals of displaced persons in south Darfur carried out by the Sudanese army and police.
These attempts at forced displacement represent serious violations of agreements between the UN and the Government of Sudan which emphasise that returns should only take place voluntarily and in an atmosphere of security. Both UN Secretary General Annan and the EU have condemned such forced displacements and called for them to halt.
The Council is expected to adopt Conclusions expressing the EU’s ongoing concern at the deteriorating security and humanitarian situation in Darfur and renewing its call on all the parties in Darfur to abide by the commitments they have entered into.
Staying with Africa, the Council will also discuss the situation in the Great Lakes where, unfortunately, tensions have been rising again. This follows recent statements by Rwanda that it may intervene militarily in eastern Congo, if steps are not taken urgently to disarm Hutu extremists still present in the area. The Council is likely to express regret at this belligerent action by Rwanda, which runs contrary to the commitments which it and the other countries of the Great Lakes region signed up to at the Great Lakes Conference in Dar-es-Salaam on 20 November. At that meeting these countries adopted a Declaration of Principles on establishing peace and security in the Region. The Council is likely to affirm its strong support for the Great Lakes Conference process and also reiterate the need for decisive action to be taken by the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo, supported by the UN mission in the Congo, to accelerate the disarmament process and deal with any outstanding threat posed by armed groups in eastern DRC.
The Council is also due to adopt an EU regional strategy for the Great Lakes region, which will reinforce EU support for the Great Lakes Conference process, as it continues its work towards a second Summit, to be held in Nairobi in November 2005.
That concludes the agenda for next week’s meeting, Mr. Chairman .and members of the Committee. I look forward to your contributions and observations and am happy to reply to any questions that you wish to raise.