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Paris Talks Hope to Bring an Axis of Peace to Sudan's Darfur

With Darfur high on his foreign policy agenda, French President Nicolas Sarkozy will convene a trilateral ministerial meeting in Paris on Monday. It will engage US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, and French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner to coordinate strategy for implementing an agreed-to UN-African Union peacekeeping force for Sudan’s western Darfur region.

A recently formed project called Enough, the Project to Abolish Genocide and Mass Atrocities, has released a set of recommendations for the so-called “troika for Darfur” to exert coordinated multilateral pressure on the Khartoum regime to facilitate carrying out plans to activate an international hybrid force to stop the violence. An offshoot of two politically active advisory organizations, the International Crisis Group and the Center For American Progress, Enough says that divergent interests can enable the three countries to work together to have an impact on Sudan’s President Omar Al-Bashir while pursuing a common objective. Enough Project Director Anita Sharma says that working together, the three countries can achieve a goal that eludes each of them individually.

“In the US, we’ve got this amazing domestic political pressure, which is growing into this anti-genocide movement. It’s demanding US leadership and action. In France, we have a newly elected president. His foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner, who started Medcins Sans Frontiers (Doctors Without Borders), they’ve identified Darfur as a high priority, and they’re the ones who are going to be hosting this meeting. And in China, they’re the biggest trading partner in Sudan and they’ve probably got the biggest leverage with the country. They’re going to be hosting the 2008 Olympics, and they’re thinking of their own foreign policy and the way that they’re going to proceed. And we really think that they’re going to be able to use their influence behind the scenes to help move the regime to accept a more robust peacekeeping force and adopt more constructive positions on the peace process,” she said.

Enough is partnering with Save Darfur and other US–based anti-genocide coalitions to ensure that Sudan carries out its recent acceptance of an international hybrid force to stop the violence. Organizations have expressed concern that Sudan might back out of the agreement. Sharma says that verification of Khartoum’s intentions will be high on the agenda of the Paris meeting.

“Recently, there was this announcement that Sudan had unconditionally allowed for these troops to come in. However, just as soon as that announcement was made, another one was following, saying that there were conditions that were going to be put on, and those conditions would be that the force would have to be led by an African and primarily be comprised of African troops. And so that’s something that we’re going to be watching very closely because the regime has a pattern of agreeing to a force, and like I was saying, then pretty quickly after that, revising or rescinding what they had agreed to,” she noted.