At the outset, I too would like to thank Mr. Khalikov for his briefing on the humanitarian situation in Darfur, which is without doubt one of the world’s greatest emergency situations.
I would like to associate myself with those who have condemned the attacks against the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID), including the one on 17 March in Nyala, which resulted in the death of a Nigerian Blue Helmet, and the one on 9 March on a UNAMID vehicle in El Geneina, which injured four troops. We hope that Sudanese officials will ensure that the perpetrators of those attacks are arrested. We call upon all Sudanese actors to cooperate fully with UNAMID, which is in the Sudan to maintain peace and assist the most vulnerable. We must ensure that UNAMID’s deployment is completed quickly.
I would also like to call on all parties to cooperate in order to prevent a worsening of the humanitarian situation in Darfur. We once again deplore the decision by the Government of the Sudan to suspend the activities of several Sudanese non governmental organizations (NGOs) and to expel more than a dozen international NGOs that are carrying out crucial humanitarian activities and which have an international reputation for seriousness and impartiality.
Along with the Secretary-General, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and all the countries of the European Union, France hopes that the Sudanese authorities will reverse their decision and refrain for further expulsions. The operations of the NGOs affected by the Government’s decision account for more than half of the humanitarian effort in Darfur. As OCHA’s representative has indicated, that decision threatens to deprive more than 1 million people of food, health care and drinking water. In that connection, we look forward to the conclusions of the joint assessment currently being carried by OCHA and the Sudanese authorities to more precisely determine all the consequences of that decision that once again puts the people concerned in a situation of unbearable deprivation.
In that regard, I would like to commend UNAMID and the agencies of the United Nations system — including the World Food Programme, UNICEF, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the World Health Organization — who are doing their best to avert an even graver humanitarian tragedy.
We regret the abruptness and speed with which Sudanese Government agencies have implemented the expulsion order, including harassment and intimidation against NGOs still on the ground. We consider it essential to ensure the protection of the 6,000 people who make up the national staff of the NGOs that have been expelled. Clearly, it is also very important to protect the property of the expelled NGOs.
The continuation of humanitarian efforts in Darfur is essential for the nearly 4 million people who depend upon them, in particular the 2.5 million displaced persons. The challenge is to protect the people of Darfur. That requires that all parties, beginning with Sudanese officials, act responsibly regardless of the circumstances. In that regard, I should like to emphasize the crucial need for all parties to the conflict, including the authorities in Khartoum, to respect the binding norms of international humanitarian law, in particular those relating to humanitarian access to victims and the protection of humanitarian staff.
The issue of humanitarian assistance and the issue of international criminal justice must absolutely be kept apart. France reaffirms its support for international criminal justice and its independence, and reiterates the Sudan’s obligation to cooperate with the International Criminal Court, in accordance with resolution 1593 (2005). To punish its own population is certainly not the correct response. As the representative of the Sudan has himself said, we too believe in the value of dialogue and the need to provide a political solution to this crisis. We also believe that combating impunity cannot be delinked from the search for peace in Darfur, or anywhere else in the world. We therefore look forward to our 26 March discussion with Joint Chief Negotiator Bassolé. /.