15 SEPTEMBER 2008
|FOR AN INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON DARFUR
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.