We are pushing and pushing to save the Darfuris

There has been important progress on Darfur in the past two months. In July we agreed on the deployment of a robust UN/African Union (AU) force and the start of peace talks. But the situation remains completely unacceptable. In the coming weeks and months, we commit as leaders to redouble our efforts to make further progress.

At the end of July the UN agreed to our plan. UN Resolution 1769, passed –– for the first time –– unanimously, was the culmination of intense diplomatic activity over the crisis in Darfur. In the next few weeks, one of the largest UN troop deployments –– this time in partnership with the African Union –– will begin arriving in Darfur. Twenty thousand peacekeepers and nearly 4,000 police will contribute to ensuring the security of Darfur’s people –– as well enabling safe delivery of essential supplies of food.

Moreover, on the political front, most of the Darfuri rebel groups met in Tanzania early this month under UN and AU auspices to prepare for political negotiations. They reached agreement on their common demands and said that they would commit to a ceasefire if the Sudanese Government also made the same commitment.

But there is still a gap between the efforts pursued by the international community and the dramatic situation that remains on the ground.

More than two million people have already been displaced, and their numbers continue to grow. Four million people now rely on food aid and other humanitarian assistance. And the fighting continues with aerial bombardment, banditry and skirmishes between groups flourishing in a lawless and insecure environment. The pain of the people of Darfur demands quick and decisive action from the international community.

The important UN Resolution 1769 is not the end but just the starting point of the international efforts that we must mount to stop the killing and to bring peace to this troubled region. The troop deployment is only one stage in the process of bringing peace, and we cannot wait a moment longer for intense international action to secure a ceasefire. That is the reason why we are determined and fully committed to step up our actions over the crisis in Darfur and the region. We intend to mobilise all energies along five directions.

In the coming days, both Rama Yade, the French Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and Human Rights, and Lord Malloch-Brown, the British Foreign Office Minister, will visit Sudan, including Darfur. We call on all sides to lay down their arms, to respect a ceasefire without delay and to bring the aerial bombings of civilians to an immediate end.

We will support all efforts to expedite preparations of the deployment of the AU-UN force (UNAMID), authorised by Resolution 1769, so that it will be operational by the end of this year.

But our plans go beyond the ceasefire, which cannot on its own resolve such a complex conflict. We need a political settlement that addresses the root causes of the violence and allows Darfur to participate in national elections in Sudan in 2009. The UN and AU will issue invitations for political talks to start in October. We urge the Government of Sudan and rebel leaders to engage fully and sincerely in this process. And we welcome the role of Sudan’s neighbours in support of UN/AU efforts.

If progress is not made on security, the ceasefire, political process and humanitarian access, we will work together for further sanctions against those who fail to fulfil their commitments, obstruct the political process or continue to violate the ceasefire.

We also believe there is a need to help with economic reconstruction –– to help people to return to their villages and rebuild their livelihoods. As soon as security allows, we will commit resources to grassroots development. When there is political progress, we will work with all parties to meet Sudan’s longer-term development needs.

And we must look beyond Darfur, to the issues affecting Sudan and the region. We want to see faster progress on the comprehensive peace agreement that brought peace between north and south Sudan.

In Chad, hundreds of thousands of people fleeing the conflict in Darfur are living in camps alongside people displaced by internal unrest. We are working intensively with the UN and the EU to ensure better security and greater humanitarian assistance. It is clear that the deployments of two missions to ensure security on both sides of the Chad-Sudan border are the two sides of the same coin.

The causes of conflict in Sudan are deep-rooted: economic, environmental and political. Neither Britain nor France, nor the people of Sudan, can achieve a successful outcome alone. We need cooperation from all parties and engagement from the international community. We welcome the visit to Sudan in the coming days by Ban Ki Moon, Secretary-General of the UN. There will be a AU/UN meeting in New York on September 21 to sustain international initiatives to address the crisis. And France will chair a Security Council meeting four days later at the level of heads of states and governments to rally world leaders to deliver on commitments to peace in Darfur and beyond.

It is the combination of a ceasefire, a peacekeeping force, economic reconstruction and the threat of sanctions that can bring a political solution to the region –– and we will spare no efforts in making this happen.

Gordon Brown and Nicolas Sarkozy, prime minister of the United Kingdom and President of France, respectively.