MAY 11, 2010: Darfur Blue Helmets to Take 'Robust' Defensive Action If Attacked, Says UN-AU Envoy

Darfur Blue Helmets to Take 'Robust' Defensive Action If Attacked, Says UN-AU Envoy
 
SOURCE: UN News Service
 
The head of the joint African Union-United Nations mission in Darfur said today that peacekeepers there will be more robust when defending themselves from attacks, while recognizing that the primary responsibility for protecting staff lay with the Sudanese Government.

Last week, two Egyptian soldiers serving with the mission, known as UNAMID, died when their convoy on routine patrol was attacked by about 20 unidentified armed gunmen in a remote area of South Darfur state.

"[As] UNAMID we are going to be very strict in terms of a robust position so that people will be discouraged from even attempting to attack us," Ibrahim Gambari, head of UNAMID and the AU-UN Joint Special Representative in Darfur, said in an interview with UN Radio.

"We also want to make it clear that an attack on international peacekeepers is a war crime, a violation of international criminal law," Mr. Gambari added.

He said the Sudanese Government, as UNAMID's host, bore the primary responsibility of protecting the mission's staff and curbing the criminal activities that had led to attacks on peacekeepers by arresting the perpetrators and bringing them to justice.

"The Government has assured us that they will do their best to enhance the security of our staff," Mr. Gambari said.

The protection of blue helmets serving in Darfur was high on the agenda of the latest talks between the UN, the AU and the Sudanese Government, which took place yesterday in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa. The meeting of the so-called Tripartite Mechanism also focused on the continued implementation of UNAMID's mandate.

Mr. Gambari said there was no alternative to a comprehensive ceasefire agreement between the Sudanese Government and one of the leading insurgent groups in Darfur, the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), through the Doha peace process. He urged both parties to return to the talks in the Qatari capital, and pledged UNAMID's readiness to continue facilitating the political process aimed at ending the conflict.

In February the Sudanese Government and JEM signed a Framework Agreement in Doha, paving the way for a final resolution of the conflict in Darfur, where an estimated 300,000 people have been killed and another 2.7 million forced from their homes since violence erupted in 2003, pitting rebels against Government forces and their allied Janjaweed militiamen. The agreement included a provision for a truce.

The agreement has, however, faltered in recent weeks with fresh clashes erupting between the two sides' forces, and belligerent rhetoric reportedly coming from the two parties.

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