France proposes humanitarian corridor for Darfur

29th May 2007, Comments 0 comments

HAMBURG, Germany, May 29, 2007 (AFP) - France has proposed opening a humanitarian corridor through Chad to bring relief to victims of the Darfur conflict, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said here late Monday.

HAMBURG, Germany, May 29, 2007 (AFP) - France has proposed opening a humanitarian corridor through Chad to bring relief to victims of the Darfur conflict, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said here late Monday.

"We are mulling several options, including securing a humanitarian corridor from Chad," Kouchner told reporters after talks with his Chinese counterpart on the four-year-old conflict in Darfur.

Kouchner said he had discussed the French proposal with United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Monday before bringing it to the eighth Asia-Europe meeting (ASEM) in Hamburg in northern Germany.

"It is only an idea so far, but it is worth it. It might work," Kouchner said.

French diplomats said the operation would be carried out by an international force with a United Nations mandate and could include French troops stationed in Chad, Sudan's western neighbour.

"It will be a proper international force," a source close to the minister said.

He said the bulk of the humanitarian force was likely to be made up of European troops, and that it would operate with the help of some 7,000 African Union troops deployed in Darfur.

The embattled AU force has failed to halt the bloodshed that erupted in the western Sudanese region in 2003 when Khartoum enlisted the help of Arab militia to put down an ethnic minority rebellion.

The UN believes that since then the fighting has claimed at least 200,000 lives and driven 2.5 million people from their homes.

The Sudanese government has repeatedly rejected plans to deploy UN troops alongside the African peacekeepers in a joint force numbering some 23,00O soldiers.

Khartoum's hand has been strengthened by China, which has opposed US-led plans within the UN Security Council to use sanctions to force President Omar al-Beshir to accept a UN force.

On Friday, the council endorsed plans for a hybrid UN-AU force but its deployment remains subject to Khartoum's approval.

Kouchner conceded that Paris faced a challenge in bringing Sudan and Chad to agree to his initiative.

"It is not a done thing, they still have to be convinced," he said.

Kouchner spent an hour in one-on-one talks with Yang on the sidelines of the ASEM meeting in a bid to bring China fully on board in efforts to resolve the Darfur crisis.

He said Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi responded positively to an invitation to form part of a new contact group on Darfur which should eventually include South Africa, Eritrea and several other African nations.

"He is happy to be invited," said the French foreign minister who took up his post less than a fortnight ago.

Newly elected French President Nicolas Sarkozy has made resolving the crisis in Darfur one of his foreign policy objectives, but admits it cannot be resolved without Chinese cooperation.

China openly supplies arms to Sudan and buys more than half of the African state's oil output.

EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said he supported the idea of a humanitarian corridor which Kouchner said he would try to sell to world leaders ahead of the G8 summit in Germany in early June.

"I agree with the idea in principal. We have to see how we implement it," Solana told AFP.

France has some 1,100 soldiers and a handful of fighter jets stationed in Chad under a defence agreement with the former French colony.


Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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