Sudan rejects French call for meeting on Darfur crisis

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner addresses the Press in Khartoum, yesterday.

Sudan Monday rebuffed a French initiative to host a meeting of key nations to find a solution to Sudan’s war-torn Darfur region on June 25, saying the timing was not right. 

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner (left) addresses the Press as his Sudanese counterpart Lam Akol watches in Khartoum, yesterday. Photo/REUTERS

Sudanese Foreign Minister Lam Akol said his country preferred to await the outcome of African Union and United Nations efforts to get peace talks back on track and put together a peacekeeping force for Darfur. 

“At this particular time when we are ... waiting for the roadmap ... to be announced we don’t want any distraction,” Mr Akol told reporters after meeting French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner in Khartoum. 

“We think that – the time may not be opportune for that meeting,” Akol added. 

Mr Akol said all initiatives being proposed to resolve Darfur needed to be streamlined under the AU and the UN. 

A joint AU-UN effort to renew peace talks and provide an effective peacekeeping force has largely been recognised by all parties to the conflict as the best way forward. Since French President Nicolas Sarkozy took office, France has taken a more proactive stance towards Darfur, which borders its former colony Chad. 

Sarkozy announced last week that foreign ministers from an “enlarged contact group”, including the United States, Egypt and Sudan’s ally China, would meet in Paris on June 25 to seek a way to end to the Darfur crisis. 

French financial aid to Darfur remains low in comparison with other European powers. 

France gave 3.9 million euros in 2006, with 2.5 million euros this year, UN figures show. Darfur’s aid operation, the world’s largest, will need $650 million this year and the 7,000-strong AU peacekeeping force costs $40 million a month to sustain. 

“Interest is not only money,” said Mr Kouchner, declining to say whether France would increase its aid to Darfur. 

Washington calls the violence genocide, a term European governments are reluctant to use and Khartoum rejects. 

International experts estimate 200,000 have died in Darfur, while Sudan puts the figure at 9,000.