My Lords, the comprehensive peace agreement has successfully prevented a return to all-out conflict in Sudan. Accomplishing the census in May was a welcome milestone. However, the CPA faces significant risks. The recent fighting in Abyei reflects unresolved disagreements. Continued slow progress towards an electoral law may delay national elections beyond 2009. We are fully engaged with both parties, and with international partners, to secure full implementation of the CPA and to try to deliver a peaceful future for the whole of Sudan.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for that helpful reply. What information does he have about the conflict he referred to in Abyei, a disputed oil-rich territory? The conflict has disrupted emergency efforts to supply food, water and medical supplies to the 50,000 people fleeing from previous conflict in the region, and has displaced a further 90,000 who are now living in hardship and hunger. Can he tell us what urgent measures are being taken to alleviate their suffering, and whether the conflict in Abyei represents a violation of the comprehensive peace agreement? If so, what has been the response of the Assessment and Evaluation Commission and other international organisations which are guarantors of the CPA?
My Lords, the Assessment and Evaluation Commission made an emergency visit to Abyei and, along with many other international partners, has contributed to pressing both sides to resolve the dispute. We therefore welcome the new agreement between the NCP in the north and the SPLM in the south to resolve the immediate crisis. Although we do not yet have the full details, the agreement includes a new joint integrated unit involving the militaries of both sides, access for UNMIS, the UN peacekeeping force in the area, and an interim administration for the Abyei area with a proposed new border and what should be an agreement on oil revenue-sharing, together with international arbitration. Additionally, the north has promised over $1 billion for the recovery and rebuilding of Abyei.
My Lords, does my noble friend accept that humanitarian aid, important as it is, is not a substitute for effective political action, because without such action the humanitarian crisis is likely to continue indefinitely? Does he also agree that the responsibility to protect is now generally accepted in principle but frequently fails to deliver in practice? While I accept that the Government have made mammoth efforts up to this stage, will they urge on the UN Security Council the need to address the slaughter, disease, displacement, famine and slavery in the area, if necessary by direct international intervention?
My Lords, my noble and learned friend is right to say that the responsibility to protect unfortunately remains a doctrine recognised more in principle than in practice. All of us who were involved in its development had hoped that Sudan, particularly the Darfur region, would be one of the first places for its effective application. Instead we face continuing conflict throughout Sudan which, as my noble and learned friend rightly observed, humanitarian assistance alone cannot address. The UN Security Council, under the joint leadership of the British ambassador to the council, has just been in Sudan trying to achieve political progress on Abyei and more generally on north/south and Darfur issues. We continue to press for a political solution here because Darfur and Sudan as a whole remains a blot on the collective international conscience.
My Lords, are the Government relying on government reporting of the security situation in Darfur and southern Sudan, or are they listening to aid organisations working on the ground that might be more accurate? More specifically, which organisations are they listening to? Further, what are the Government doing to encourage China and other countries that buy oil from Sudan to use their influence in a responsible way?
My Lords, much to the chagrin of the Sudanese Government, we do not use government statistics but rely on those from the UN which are themselves aggregations of information provided by its NGO partners. The statistics paint a sorry picture of reducing access, of seven international NGO workers killed this year, of more than 125 vehicles and trucks stolen, of more than 25 drivers of those trucks still missing, and, as I have said, of less and less access to different parts of Darfur. We continue to press in the UN and elsewhere for effective action.
My Lords, in an earlier response the Minister mentioned an agreement which is said to have been reached between the north and the south on Friday, but he did not say whether it includes any mention of the sovereignty of the disputed territory of Abyei. I would be grateful if he could say a few more words about that. Further, what does the enhanced role and presence of UNMIS involve, and is there anything in writing yet?
My Lords, the noble Lord will recall that I did say that the details of the agreement are only just coming in at this stage. Therefore we do not have full information on exactly what level of UNMIS deployment will be allowed. However, we are assuming that it will be full access by UNMIS to Abyei. I also said that on the Abyei issue itself, both sides have agreed to renewed international arbitration, which presumably will deal with both the border and the oil revenue-sharing issues. I would be happy to come back to the noble Lord as more details on precisely what is intended become available, and I shall put a copy of that letter in the Library.
My Lords, it certainly is recognised. Just last week I went to Paris to discuss with colleagues there the need for Britain, France, the United States and others, with the regional neighbours, to try to find a way of securing a peace agreement between Chad and Sudan. While both continue to undermine the Government of the other, we will never get regional peace.