China's Influence a Key to Peace in Darfur, Rice Says

By Jim Fisher-Thompson
USINFO Staff Writer

Washington - China's economic clout in Africa has grown over the years, putting it in a significant position to help end the genocide in Darfur, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said in a press interview in Paris.

The international community cannot continue to leave "innocent populations … to their fate,” Rice said of the victims of the government-supported Jingaweit militia, which has devastated the Western Sudanese region, killing more than 200,000 people and displacing 2 million others since 2003.

Rice attended the June 25-26 Paris conference on Darfur, which included U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, High Representative for European Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Louis Michel, European commissioner for development and humanitarian aid.

Rice said in a June 25 interview with French television that the Chinese "do have a special relationship with the Khartoum government and recently they’ve begun to speak out about the need for the Khartoum government to live up to the obligations it has repeatedly taken [to protect Darfuris] and then not followed through."

Given China’s support in meeting challenges posed by nuclear programs in North Korea and Iran, Rice said that she remains confident in Beijing.

”I really do believe that the Chinese government will do now what it has said it will do, which is to use its relationship to push the Khartoum government forward" to end the crisis in Darfur, Rice said in the French television interview.

The United States would like China to convince the Khartoum government to allow 7,000 African Union (AU) peacekeepers now in Darfur to be augmented by a U.N. peacekeeping contingent creating a hybrid force of more than 20,000 troops. Sudanese authorities have balked at the proposal.

"We have to have the peacekeeping forces on the ground so that these people have a chance at a better life and a reconstruction of their lives," Rice said.

"We have had very good relations with China," Rice emphasized, and "we’ve had good opportunities to work with China on a number of difficult issues, like, for instance, the situation in North Korea, the situation in Iran.  And so I believe that the Chinese government can and will act responsibly … given its relationship with Khartoum."

At a later press conference, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon agreed, adding, "I think the Chinese government has been playing a constructive role" in Darfur.  "They have been dispatching senior-level officials … [to the] Sudanese government [asking them] to fully cooperate with the international community, particularly with the United Nations and African Union.  As far as I'm concerned … I'm satisfied with what the Chinese government has been contributing to the resolution of this issue."

Ban said: "The international community has been waiting too long and the people in Darfur have suffered too much.  So this time is for action, particularly by [Sudanese] President Bashir."

At the same time, the U.N. chief urged rebel groups in Darfur to participate in “this political process."

Commenting on the overall conference, Ban told journalists, "We have had a very good meeting," and he said the Darfur crisis was "the highest priority on my agenda.”

A transcript of remarks by Rice and other officials after the conference is available on the State Department Web site, as is a transcript of Rice’s interview with French television.

For more information, see Darfur Humanitarian Emergency.