Everyone talks about Darfur but no one really does anything practical for it. Of course, there are peacekeeping attempts despite continued fragmentation among the rebels and shifting tactics by the Sudanese governments. There are also welcome attempts to provide humanitarian assistance, although by now other nearby countries like Somalia and even Ethiopia are competing for such urgent help.

Politically, there seems to be a possible convergence of views on the need for concerted international action. China, a key player in that issue, indicated a willingness to extend practical support. The government of Sudan, following a receding controversy over the indictment of President Bashir, seems to have seen some value in collaborating seriously and honestly with the U.N. / African effort. The U.N. / A.U. mission itself has substantively improved with the appointment of the experienced and credible Djibril Bassole.

Perhaps one further step would be to seek more support from a potentially helpful and strategically placed country like Egypt. Cairo has always considered Sudan as part of its national security. Egypt's dynamic Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit understands the issue very well, having served earlier as his country's Permanent Representative to the U.N. in New York. Egypt has the unique advantage of being both a highly visible African, Middle Eastern, Mediterranean and international presence, as well a vested interest in regional stability. Its positive help would be appreciatively rewarded by frustrated countries seeking an illusive way out.

An initial meeting between Envoy Bassole and Minister Aboul Gheit was a good practical first step. Further action could be taken to consolidate that collaboration. We would modestly suggest that Secretary General Ban, who repeatedly said that Darfur was a priority, pick up the phone to thank President Mubarak for Egypt's interest and urge enhanced close collaboration, possibly suggesting an international conference to agree on specific guidelines for a practical and gracious way out.

Former U.N. envoys have pushed the Secretary General to go to so many places -- like Libya, Tchod, Ethiopia, Saudi Arabia, Kenya. Now it is time to include Egypt. But, above all, why not test them all in one move. Hold an international conference on Darfur and see who will deliver.