I would first like to thank Special Representative of the Secretary-General Haile Menkerios for his outstanding work heading the United Nations Mission in the Sudan. I would also like to thank President Mkapa for his briefing and his assessment of the process.
What has been reported to us here today about the Sudan is good news.
The self-determination referendum began on the scheduled date and proceeded under transparent and credible conditions. France commends all participants who made it possible for this important stage of the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement to take place, beginning with the authorities in Khartoum and Juba, who embarked on a constructive path of partnership rather than confrontation. We also commend the Secretary- General’s Panel on the Referenda in the Sudan, which organized the voting under very difficult conditions, and the United Nations Mission in the Sudan, which provided logistical and technical support critical to organizing the referendum in the largest country in Africa. Lastly and most importantly, we commend the people of the Sudan, whose peaceful participation, according to the latest reports, far exceeded the 60 per cent quorum required to validate the voting.
The parties, however, still have much to do to by the end of the interim period provided for in the Agreement. First, a solution must be found in Abyei.
Like previous speakers, we are concerned by the violence that has occurred there. An agreement appears to have been reached by the parties, but a lasting solution must be outlined regarding the status of the province and the coexistence of the ethnic groups there. Moreover, post-referendum issues left pending must be settled. The future of the relationship between the North and the South depends on a shared understanding of the placement of the border, security matters, citizenship and the sharing of wealth.
Regarding Abyei, as with other post-referendum matters, we support the facilitation work conducted by the African Union High-Level Implementation Panel headed by President Mbeki. We encourage the parties to spare no effort and to make the concessions necessary to a lasting peace.
While we welcome the successful conduct of the referendum, we cannot fail to note the deterioration of the situation in Darfur. What is taking place is not a case of sporadic attacks; it is a war between the Sudanese Armed Forces and rebel groups that is also being waged against civilians, sowing death and creating tens of thousands of newly displaced persons. We are also very concerned about the Bulgarian pilots abducted on 13 January.
Given the current instability, what is needed is for the Sudanese Armed Forces and the rebel groups to achieve a genuine ceasefire and sustainable peace. To that end, peace talks must take place between the combatants.
The only framework for such negotiations that exists today is the Doha talks, conducted by Joint Chief Mediator Djibrill Bassolé with the support of the Government of Qatar. This framework is open to improvement. New incentives must be found to bring the Sudanese Government and all rebel groups back to the table. We must nurture this tool because it is today the only means of bringing those warring parties together.
We continue to lend our full support to the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur and strongly condemn the obstacles placed in its way. It must redouble its efforts to protect civilians, as required by its mandate. We believe that progress is possible.
I would like to conclude by saying that there can be no peace without justice in Darfur, in keeping with the implementation of resolution 1593 (2005).