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Mr. Michael Ancram (Devizes) (Con): I thank the Foreign Secretary for his statement, and for giving me advance sight of it.

May I, too, start with a word about the outrage and tragedy of the events last Friday in Beslan in North Ossetia? None of us can have been immune to the horror, the intense grief and the justified anger arising from the inhuman and obscene violence and murder that was meted out by vicious terrorists to innocent children and their parents and teachers. We join the people of Beslan and, indeed, of all Russia in their mourning, and renew our own determination to continue to fight the scourge of terrorism wherever it occurs. While those horrifying pictures are fresh in our minds, it is right that we are discussing another area of brutality and evil inhumanity: the unspeakable atrocities and acts of genocide being carried out against the people of Darfur in Sudan.

I welcome the Foreign Secretary's recent visit to Sudan. In June, my hon. Friend the Member for Buckingham (Mr. Bercow) went deeper into Darfur and saw the horrors at first hand. He informs me that those horrors continue today. Of course, I join the Foreign Secretary in welcoming the somewhat meagre improvements in the situation that have occurred in the past month—namely, improved access for aid and the tentative start of peace talks in Abuja. However, I am sure that he agrees that they do not go very far towards dealing with the continuing atrocities on the ground.

Did not the United Nations Security Council resolution 1556, passed at the end of July, require in effect that by the end of August the infamous Janjaweed should be disarmed by the Sudanese Government? That certainly has not occurred. Surely the international priorities are now clear: to provide genuine security for the swelling refugee camps; to facilitate and target the distribution of desperately needed aid; and to police a genuine ceasefire. Should not those be the clear and determined objectives of both the United Nations and ourselves? Yet violence and murder continue unabated. Indeed, have not some 3,000 people been driven from their homes in renewed violence during the past few days? Is it not disingenuous for the Sudanese Government to continue to argue that this situation is not of their making or is beyond their control?

Kofi Annan admitted last week that

In the face of that, how can the international community wait while further atrocities are committed in Darfur and more people die? If aid workers are to be believed, every day of prevarication will cost another thousand deaths.

Three years ago the Prime Minister talked about a "moral duty to act". The moves that the Foreign Secretary has outlined today simply do not go far enough. He should start by pressing in the United Nations for an African Union peacekeeping force of sufficient size to deliver those objectives. The African Union military seem willing to undertake that task. Our
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involvement, along with other non-African countries, should be to provide communications and logistical support, and possibly, if necessary, the wherewithal to enforce a no-fly zone over Darfur.

We are told, however, that such a peacekeeping force can be put in place only at the highly unlikely invitation of the Sudanese Government. Is that not in practice an unacceptable recipe for inaction? Such is the scale of the atrocities that if the United Nations Security Council is to mean anything in terms of the relief of human suffering it must find a way to intervene directly. I hope that the Council in its discussions today will seek to identify such a way. The British Government should in due course lead by moving the relevant resolution.

The current situation in Darfur is a test not just of the Government of Sudan: it is a test of the credibility of the United Nations and, ultimately, of the moral duty of the British Government. The time for inaction has passed.

Mr. Straw: I am grateful for the right hon. and learned Gentleman's words about the situation in Beslan. He spoke for the House in those remarks.

The right hon. and learned Gentleman said that the international community's priorities should be the disarmament of the Janjaweed, the safety and proper supply of the refugee camps and policing the ceasefire. I agree with those priorities, but add to them the need for comprehensive disarmament of all the paramilitary groups: the Popular Defence Force operates directly under the orders of the Government of Sudan; a large part of the Janjaweed also operates under their orders, and there are rebel groups. It is sad but true that atrocities continue to be committed by rebels, albeit on a lesser scale than those of the Janjaweed under the control of the Government of Sudan.

In addition to those four priorities, success in the political talks is crucial. The terrible conflict in Darfur, which goes back many decades, can be resolved only through a political settlement, along similar lines to that towards which the parties are edging in Naivasha on the north-south axis. The critical point about the Naivasha accords is that the Government of Sudan have already agreed with the rebels that there should be both devolution of power within Sudan and a devolving and sharing of the wealth of the Government of Sudan. I kept making the point to President al-Bashir, Foreign Minister Mustafa and others that those principles are sound and that if they want peace throughout Sudan, they must apply them in Darfur, too.

The right hon. and learned Gentleman mentioned the climate of impunity, which is a phrase that Kofi Annan used. We want an end to that climate of impunity and we therefore support proper international investigation of all the evidence about what international crimes have been committed—it is certain that such crimes have been committed—and by whom.

The right hon. and learned Gentleman also mentioned an African Union peacekeeping force. I believe that it is a matter of agreement in all parties that it is crucial, if we are to have any success, to work with the African Union. It has shown a high degree of responsibility. It must be borne in mind that there are
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disagreements among its members, too, and it has to resolve them. However, we stand ready to provide all the assistance that we can to the African Union and I know that that applies to most other international partners.

On drafting the Security Council resolution, we already have drafts, which we are discussing privately with our Security Council colleagues. We want the strongest possible resolution. I understand everybody's impatience—I share it. It took us longer than I had hoped to get a Security Council resolution at the end of July. The right hon. and learned Gentleman said that it took too long and he is right. However, we wanted an international consensus and the result of working and negotiating with the Security Council was ultimately getting all three African members—Algeria, Benin and Angola—to support that tough resolution. That is crucial in pressuring the Government of Sudan.

Mr. John Battle (Leeds, West) (Lab): I welcome my right hon. Friend's genuine efforts to resolve the crisis in Sudan. He began by mentioning Beslan and I note that many financial appeals have been launched in the past few days as a compassionate response and practical contribution to the communities of Beslan. However, in the short term, I ask my right hon. Friend to re-emphasise that humanitarian resources are still desperately needed in Sudan now and that Beslan appeals should not overshadow those needs. Rather, we should all do and give much more to both international appeals.

Mr. Straw: I agree with my right hon. Friend. As he said, there are sufficient riches and resources around the world to provide fully adequate material relief to the poor people of Beslan and adequate humanitarian relief in the Sudan.

Sir Menzies Campbell (North-East Fife) (LD): May I associate my right hon. and hon. Friends with the proper expressions of sympathy that the Foreign Secretary made to the Russian people at the outset of his statement? Nothing, but nothing, justifies the calculated brutality that we saw at Beslan. On such occasions, language sometimes seems insufficient to express the depth of horror and revulsion that we all feel.

May I commend the Foreign Secretary for his efforts in relation to Sudan and, in particular, for his visit there? Do the British Government accept the estimates that 50,000 people have been killed and that more than 1 million have fled their homes? Do the British Government consider that what has happened in Darfur amounts to genocide? If what has taken place there does not justify the description of genocide, how would the British Government characterise the killing, the rape, the forced displacement and the human rights violations?

Do the British Government accept the verdict of the United Nations special representative that

What is the assessment of the degree of complicity of the Sudanese Government in these terrible events?

While accepting that, for the moment at least, there is no political will to authorise intervention and that neither sanctions nor an arms embargo have as yet
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sufficient support, what can be done with Rwanda and Bosnia in mind—the Foreign Secretary referred to both—if the Sudanese Government persist in failing to meet their responsibilities?

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