Foreign Affairs Minister Lloyd Axworthy today announced new Canadian initiatives aimed at bringing peace to Sudan. They include support for a return visit to southern Sudan by Leonardo Franco, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Sudan; financial assistance to combat the abductions of women and children; an undertaking to use Canada's presidency of the UN Security Council in April to address the humanitarian impact of this conflict on the people of Sudan; and the opening of a Canadian office in Khartoum.
These decisions were made following the first visit to Sudan and the region by Senator Lois Wilson, Canada's Envoy to the Peace Process, and following Mr. Axworthy's review of the report prepared by John Harker, who visited Sudan to investigate allegations of slavery and other reported human rights abuses related to oil development.
"Senator Wilson's and Mr. Harker's reports reinforce our serious concerns regarding the prospects for peace in Sudan, and the need for the international community to support the peace process with renewed vigour," said Mr. Axworthy. "They also highlight the terrible toll that Sudan's tragic and cruel war is taking on the lives of innocent civilians, and underscore the need for the parties to make a firm commitment to reach an early, just and durable peace. Canada continues to believe that engagement and dialogue are the most appropriate tools for advancing the cause of peace in Sudan."
Canada hopes that Mr. Franco will be able to travel to southern Sudan to continue the valuable work that he has already done on the displacement of civilians and other human rights violations in that region. The Government of Canada will provide the necessary support to facilitate a resumption of his mission.
Canada will, as suggested in the Harker report, provide financial assistance to the Committee on the Eradication of Abductions of Women and Children, either directly or through UNICEF. The Committee is rendering an invaluable service in helping to reunite women and children who have been abducted from their families in southern Sudan.
Canada vigorously supports the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) regional peace process and its Declaration of Principles as the only viable means of achieving a just peace in Sudan. Senator Wilson has just returned from a visit to the region to promote the peace process and to urge the parties to reach a negotiated settlement to the conflict. As a priority for Canada's presidency of the UN Security Council in April, Mr. Axworthy will work to ensure that the Security Council exerts its influence to support these regional mediation efforts.
The report of the assessment mission does not recommend the imposition of unilateral economic sanctions in the present situation. However, it makes clear that private-sector interests have a responsibility and an opportunity to make a positive contribution to the human rights situation within their sphere of influence. Talisman Energy, a large Canadian oil company with a significant presence in Sudan, is well-placed to make such a positive contribution. In this connection, Talisman is strongly encouraged to continue its efforts to develop, with non-governmental organizations (NGOs), an effective mechanism for monitoring its operations in Sudan, to ensure that they do not lead to an increase in tensions, or otherwise contribute to the ongoing conflict.
Officials of the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) will meet with representatives of the NGO community on Tuesday, February 15, to discuss ways in which the Government of Canada could support the monitoring of the human rights situation in Sudan.
Finally, Canada will open a Canadian office in Khartoum in order to make a more effective contribution to the peace process, to promote respect for human rights and to offer consular services to Canadians in Sudan. Our embassy in Addis Ababa will remain accredited to the Government of Sudan.
The findings of the assessment mission to Sudan have contributed to our understanding of the situation in that country. Reporting from Senator Wilson, ongoing dialogue with the parties to the Sudan conflict, and discussions in international forums such as the UN Security Council will continue to contribute to the development of Canada's policy.
The report is available on the DFAIT Web site at http://www.dfait-maeci.gc.ca/foreignp/menu-e.asp. The document has been vetted for personal information only by the Department. The views and opinions contained in the report are not necessarily those of the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.
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