Last Tuesday there was a question in the Lords about the humanitarian crisis in Darfur, and I asked:
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Lord Avebury: My Lords, considering the gross obstruction to the UN humanitarian agencies as well as the resumption of bombing attacks on civilians and the refusal of Khartoum to co-operate in the delivery of the life support package, does the noble Baroness agree that it is time to refer the matter again to the United Nations so that it can revisit Resolution 1706 and ensure that we do not face an overwhelming humanitarian disaster in Darfur?
Baroness Amos: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, will know that the new UN Special Representative for Darfur is visiting the region at the moment. Once that report has been received, that will be the opportunity for the Security Council to look at the issue again.
The Special Representative, Jan Eliasson, had wrapped up his visit eight days earlier, on January 15, and there is still no sign of action by the Security Council. While the statesmen dither, Sudanese bombers are killing villagers; displaced people are being attacked in the camps, and increasingly, aid workers and UN civilians are being physically assaulted and arrested by Khartoum's troops. The 'light support package', the first step towards deployment of UN reinforcements for the African Union peacekeepers, has yet to be completed because of Sudanese obstruction.
Next Tuesday we shall have another chance to raise these matters, in a one-hour debate initiated by David Alton, a former Liberal MP who sits on the non-party crossbench.
The UN has a problem, because they need a minimum of cooperation from President Omar el-Beshir to get the 17,300 extra troops and 3,300 police into Darfur, with all their equipment and supplies, but the violence wouldn't happen without the tacit approval of the President. Two hundred thousand people have been killed, two million displaced, and four million are dependent on humanitarian aid as a result of Khartoum's policies, for which Beshir bears command responsibility.