Proposed US, UK, French visit to Darfur “odd”

1524

Sudan’s UN mission on Wednesday criticised a proposed visit to its conflict-torn Darfur region earlier this year by senior US, British and French diplomats, describing the plan Khartoum never approved as “odd.”

Reuters reported on Tuesday Khartoum declined to issue visas to the three deputy ambassadors, who were hoping to conduct a fact-finding mission.

Ambassador Hassan Hamid Hassan, deputy head of Sudan’s UN mission, told Reuters the request for visas in January was strange because it was not for a visit by the entire 15-nation Security Council or by the five permanent members, Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States.
“Thus, the entire proposed visit was odd and under question because of the unclarity and the contradictions related to both the purpose and format,” the Sudanese mission said in a statement. It added visa questions are the “ultimate sovereign right for every country”.

He also questioned the diplomats’ motives for the trip saying it had not been clear why they wanted to go to Darfur in the first place.

Hassan suggested the issue of the January visas may have been revived now to reinforce a joint statement issued on Monday by the United States, Britain and Norway rebuking Khartoum for its “failure to create a free, fair, and conducive elections environment.”

Hassan said that joint statement was biased and had been rejected by his government.

Last week most opposition parties boycotted the presidential election, in which President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, in power since 1989, was running. The opposition described the vote as unfair.

UN envoys said Sudan’s failure to grant visas to the deputy ambassadors of the three veto-wielding Western powers was a further sign of Khartoum’s increasingly confrontational approach to the United Nations and the West over the U.-African Union mission to Darfur (UNAMID), which Khartoum wants shut.

The envoys said the diplomats wanted to visit Darfur in January, and British Deputy UN Ambassador Peter Wilson was intending to lead the trip. At that time UNAMID was under fire for its poor performance and for withholding of information about violence against civilians and peacekeepers in Darfur.

Khartoum was obstructing a UN investigation of an alleged mass rape in Darfur and had expelled several senior UN officials from Sudan.

The other two senior diplomats hoping to go to Darfur are David Pressman of the United States and Alexis Lamek of France.