The United Nations Security Council is demanding that the government of Sudan and rebel movements reach an agreement by April 30th to end the conflict in Sudan's Darfur region.
Decades of low-level tribal clashes over land and water in the Darfur region erupted into large-scale violence in 2003. Ethnic African tribes accused the Arab-dominated central government of neglect. Rebels affiliated with the Sudanese Liberation Movement and the Justice and Equality Movement attacked government facilities. Supported by the Sudanese government, Janjaweed Arab militias responded by launching attacks on civilians from Sudan's African Fur, Masalit, and Zaghawa groups in Darfur.
Hundreds of thousands of people have died since the conflict began. Some two million people have been left homeless. The presence of seven-thousand African Union forces has substantially diminished large-scale organized violence. Seven rounds of peace talks held in Abuja, Nigeria since August 2004 have made some progress, but a final accord has not yet been reached.
The U.N. Security Couoncil statement says "an inclusive political settlement is key to peace in Sudan," and endorsed the Abuja talks. The statement also reaffirmed the Security Council's determination to hold accountable those blocking peace and violating human rights. U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack says the U.S. endorsed the U.N. Security Council's call for action:
"The international community strongly urges the parties to make the necessary effort to reach agreement by that date. And in addition, the U.S. strongly believes the time has come to designate individuals under U.N. Security Council Resolution fifteen-ninety-one for targeted sanctions. The activation of targeted sanctions against those individuals who are responsible for committing violence in Darfur or impeding the peace process continues efforts to end impunity and as a down payment towards justice and accountability."
The conflict in Darfur is one of the world's worst humanitarian crises. The United States has contributed hundreds of millions of dollars in humanitarian aid, including food, shelter, health care and education for the refugees and the displaced. The U.S. is also providing over two-hundred-million dollars to support expansion of the African Union peacekeeping mission in Darfur. But as U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick told the parties to the peace talks, "While you are bickering, people are dying." All sides, said Mr. Zoellick, "need to apply themselves to the hard work of peace."
The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.