UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – The Security Council on Tuesday pressed Sudan’s reluctant government to let U.N. military experts into Darfur within a week to plan for deployment of a U.N. peacekeeping force in the region later this year.
Sudan barred letting U.N. troops take over from the smaller and under-equipped African Union force now in Darfur pending a peace agreement, and has given mixed signals since the May 5 signing of a peace deal in the Nigerian capital of Abuja.
The Khartoum government has so far declined to allow the U.N. military planners in Darfur — as part of a joint mission with AU planners — or give them visas.
But at a meeting on Monday in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, the African Union Peace and Security Council firmly endorsed a transition to a U.N. force in Darfur after September 30.
The AU council, under heavy lobbying from the Sudanese government, had earlier waffled on a changeover.
The U.N. resolution adopted unanimously by the 15-nation council on Tuesday did not spell out the consequences of missing the deadline.
But U.S. Ambassador John Bolton said, “The government of Sudan would find itself in a very difficult position if it didn’t cooperate with this transition.”
The resolution endorsed the AU Peace and Security Council’s decision and urged Sudan’s government and Darfur rebels to work with AU and U.N. officials “to accelerate transition to a United Nations operation.”
It was the African Union’s view, the resolution said, that “concrete steps should be taken to effect the transition” from the AU force to a United Nations operation.
The measure said the council now “calls for the deployment of a joint African Union and United Nations technical assessment mission within one week of the adoption of this resolution.”
Despite voting in favour of the resolution, Russia, China and Qatar, who have treated the Khartoum government gingerly on Darfur, stressed that any U.N. peacekeeping operation had to have Sudan’s agreement.
The three nations, in almost identical statements, did not encourage Sudan to allow a U.N. military planning group into the country but said they agreed to the resolution because of African Union decisions.