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Sudan/referendum

Published on September 27, 2010
Press briefing given by Bernard Kouchner, Minister of Foreign and European Affairs

New York, September 24, 2010

THE MINISTER – Regardless of whether North and South [Sudan] separate, a great many heads of State and government are concerned about Sudan’s future and that of the Sudanese people. Minds are focused on ending the Sudanese people’s suffering. This doesn’t mean we weren’t concerned about Darfur’s problems. On the contrary, they’re of concern to us and are probably among the issues to be resolved. But 10 or 15 years ago, at the time of the very painful clashes between South and North, we could never have hoped for this meeting, we could never have hoped that a peace plan would be signed and a referendum organized for 9 January 2011. This is a very important date, and the international community must help the referendum commission which, as you know, now has a Secretary-General. The United Nations, European Union and all European countries have to be able to contribute to ensuring transparency and the smooth organization of this referendum.

Q. – With what resources?

THE MINISTER – There are resources and there will be others; the people here have pledged to provide them. At any rate, it’s more the technical means which are lacking. The commission tasked with organizing this referendum will make its needs known. We too will have to realize that we’ve got to help our Sudanese friends carry out the referendum “on time”, as President Obama said.

Q. – If it isn’t on time, it’s war…

THE MINISTER – If it isn’t on time, there will very probably be rebellions and clashes, and we don’t want any of them: we’ve seen too many.

This doesn’t mean that things are simple and that we mustn’t have confidence in international justice. All this is understood in what we’ve said.

Q. – Is a European action plan being prepared, because we now have to move very fast?

THE MINISTER – Yes, an action plan is being prepared which has now just been unveiled. There’s a European Union effort to ensure that this referendum can take place on time and that from it emerges either a decision of independence for the South, or [an agreement] for the two parts of Sudan involved jointly to pursue one. We’ll see; it’s for them to decide, not us.

Q. – Could the European Union send observers?

THE MINISTER – Of course. There will be observers as there are in every election: EU observers, French observers and international observers. The Arab League has just declared that it will be sending observers.

What’s essential is the urgent need to put an end to the conflict. For many years, probably over 20 years, North and South Sudan have been fighting one another.

In this dispute, it was hard to envisage the possibility of having a meeting such as today’s, bringing together all the world leaders to discuss this issue.

It should be possible to organize the referendum on the selected date, i.e. 9 January next year. It’s very important for the Sudanese for this referendum to take place on this date; if it doesn’t, the rebellion and other clashes will start again and we don’t want any more conflict in Sudan./.

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