» Friday, October 20, 2006

EU Informal Council

The PMOS said that the informal format to the Council was very much welcomed and was very much along the lines of the Hampton Court Summit last year. It meant that there was free flowing discussion around the table, leaders could talk over a range of subjects and could focus on issues of concern. The topics built on Hampton Court, particularly energy, which we put on the agenda last year. The Prime Minister, along with the Dutch Prime Minister, had issued a joint letter to the rest of the EU which spoke about the need to treat energy and climate change as two sides of the same coin. The PMOS said that issues to be discussed included the need to build on what had been set up at Gleneagles and Mexico, and the issue of energy supply would also form part of the discussions with President Putin tonight.

The PMOS stated that the Prime Minister wanted a relationship with on energy with Russia but that the relationship needed to be open and transparent, and that this was a two way street. The Prime Minister had asked for Dafur to be put on the agenda, and the Prime Minister would speak after lunch on the issue as he believes that Darfur was at a critical point. The PMOS said that today in Khartoum there was an African Union (AU) mission, made up of leading African countries, meeting President Bashir and that the Prime Minister wanted to send a clear message of support from the EU, but that all sides had to stop the fighting; the Sudanese government had to allow UN troops in and all sides had to engage with Darfur peace agreement. The PMOS said that in 2004, when the Prime Minister was in Khartoum, he had said that the Sudanese government were well aware of the pressure on them to address the situation in Dafur in a meaningful way and that this pressure wasn’t going to dissipate. The PMOS said that today was a good opportunity for the EU to underline that once again.

When asked what aspect was open to the EU to put pressure on the PMOS replied that the Sudanese government needed to be under no doubt that the world community would not stand by, and that through negotiations progress would try to be made. If this did not prove possible then other methods of applying pressure would have to be found. The situation in Sudan was not sustainable, it was critical, 1.9 million people were living in camps, 3 million people dependent on food aid and 200,000 people were cut off from humanitarian systems. Violence over the last few months had increased the tension even more and that there was fault on all sides. But the Sudanese government needed to cease military activity in Darfur, allow UN forces in, and all sides to engage in the peace negotiations. That is the message it was believed that the AU, including President Obasanjo, President Gaddafi, amongst others, are delivering. The message needed to reach President Bashir that the UK will remain personally engaged and the international community would support a cease fire.

Asked if it would be enough for the Sudanese to accept an AU force continuing in the region, the PMOS replied no. It was clear that the AU force had valiantly tried to control the situation but it has not been able to be as effective as it needed to be, which is why the UN was seen as a way of dealing with the situation. The PMOS added that this had been the view of the world community for quite sometime and that this was why the Sudanese government was being pressed to agree to UN troops. The PMOS said what was important was that there was effective action on the ground, the conflict had been going on for a long time and a critical point had now been reached. The AU was in Khartoum today to deliver this message, and the EU needed to show its support.

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