France brings the United States, the United Nations, China and
some 15 other nations together for a major conference today aimed
at launching a new international drive to end the four years of
conflict in Sudan's Darfur region.
Khartoum is boycotting the conference, angry that it was not
consulted during preparations for the meeting and arguing that the
French initiative will unnecessarily duplicate efforts by the UN
and the African Union (AU).
The AU is also staying away, skeptical about the meeting's
purpose and miffed at being kept out of the planning.
French officials said they hope to mobilize the international
community at what they called a "pivotal moment" in the conflict,
following the Sudanese government's agreement earlier this month to
allow the deployment of a joint AU-UN peacekeeping force to replace
the 7,000-strong AU force now in Darfur.
Details about the composition, mandate and timetable of the
joint force are expected to top discussions at the Paris
conference, French officials said.
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice arrived in Paris Sunday
to take part in the international conference, which will also
include officials from the Arab League and the European Union, as
well as 11 European countries.
"It's an opportunity for the international system to once again
highlight the need for action in Darfur," State Department
spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters on Friday.
"And perhaps you can see some concrete results out of the
meeting," he continued.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was also expected to attend the
China said on Saturday the Paris meeting should pressure rebels
who reject a peace deal to come aboard the negotiation process.
Special envoy Liu Guijin, speaking after meeting President Omar
Hassan al-Bashir in Khartoum on Saturday, also said there were no
more obstacles to sending a joint AU-UN peacekeeping operation to
"The (Paris) conference should be a major venue to persuade the
non-signatories of the Darfur Peace Agreement to come to the
negotiating table," Liu said.
Al-Bashir noted that the Chinese government had been exerting
enormous efforts and continuously playing a constructive role in
helping resolve the Darfur issue, adding that the appointment of a
special representative for Darfur proved again the concern Beijing
had over the issue.
The president also said the recent agreement on a hybrid UN-AU
peacekeeping operation in Darfur proved the true intentions of the
government to actively cooperate with the international
"The facts have proved that the consultation between the
Sudanese government, the AU and the UN is an effective mechanism to
solve the problem," Liu said, adding that he hoped the
international community would continue its efforts within the
framework of this mechanism in order to resolve the Darfur as
quickly as possible.
The Chinese envoy arrived in Khartoum on Friday on his second
visit to Sudan since he was appointed in May.
Sudan is the last leg of his African trip, during which he has
visited South Africa, Ethiopia and Egypt.
On Thursday, the Cairo-based Arab League hailed the Chinese
government's efforts to maintain world peace and stability,
especially noting its role in Darfur.
During his talks with Liu, Arab League Assistant Secretary
General Ahmed Ben Hali expressed the league's appreciation for the
Chinese efforts to push for a comprehensive solution to the Darfur
(China Daily via agencies June 25, 2007)