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Gordon Banks (Ochil and South Perthshire) (Lab): Will my hon. Friend give way?

Ian Pearson: I am afraid not. I want to answer the questions put by my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud.

The Government announced on 13 June an increase in our contribution to the expansion of the mission to £19 million, from the £6.6 million that we announced at the AU donor conference on 26 May. That brings our total contribution to the African Union mission in Sudan since its inception to almost £32 million. We will use the money to purchase up to 500 additional vehicles and further rapid deployment equipment for the AU.

Other international partners have also announced considerable support for the AU, including an additional $133 million from Canada and $50 million from the United States. Both NATO and the EU have also been asked to provide assistance, and they are discussing how they can help to present a clear and co-ordinated package of support for the AU. As part of NATO's efforts, and subject to requirements and efforts by other donors, we have allocated funding to provide airlift for up to three battalions to Darfur. Through the EU's efforts, we are also keen to support the civilian policing part of the mission. Civilian policing will be vital to long-term peace and stability in Darfur.

My hon. Friend asked about the AU's mandate. The current mandate calls on the AU to contribute to a secure environment for the provision of humanitarian assistance, which includes allowing it to protect civilians under imminent threat of attack. A detailed military assessment mission to Darfur in March looked at the AU's current performance and at the possibility of expanding the mission and extending the mandate still further. This assessment mission concluded that the mandate was sufficient to help promote peace and security in the region, but that more troops were needed to deliver it effectively. However, the AU has said that, within its current mandate, the expanded mission will focus more on the provision of security, and the increased number of troops will allow it to do that.

Of course, a peace support mission by itself will not solve the crisis in Darfur. There can be no military solution, which is why we welcome the resumption of the AU-mediated peace talks in Abuja. We also welcome the news that all the parties are attending the talks at a high level. A UK observer is present, and will provide support and advice, as required, to the parties and to the AU mediation. We are pressing all sides to negotiate in good faith at the talks, and to reach agreement on the declaration of principles on which the AU has been working with the parties over recent months before moving on to discuss issues of power and wealth sharing. Talks are expected to last until the first week of July, although while progress is being made no formal restrictions will be placed on their conclusion.

The Government have worked hard to maintain pressure on all sides to stop the fighting and engage constructively in political dialogue. We have also worked to ensure a co-ordinated international approach
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to the problems in Sudan, and the EU and the UN have been included in that. The UK strongly supported the latest three Security Council resolutions on Sudan: resolution 1590, on deploying a peace support operation to southern Sudan; resolution 1591, on extending sanctions to the Government of Sudan and imposing targeted sanctions; and resolution 1593, which we sponsored, referring the grave violations of human rights and international humanitarian law that have taken place in Darfur to the International Criminal Court.

The international community showed the strength of its support for the comprehensive peace agreement, and for Sudan, at the Oslo donor conference in April, where $4.5 billion was pledged. Much of that support will go to the south. But we have made it clear to the Government of Sudan that the full benefits of support
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will not be realised without peace in Darfur, and that we will not be able to proceed with work on debt relief until that is achieved.

The Prime Minister has put Africa at the top of the UK's agenda for its EU and G8 presidencies. The parties in Darfur and across Sudan are now faced with a clear opportunity to achieve a much-deserved peace for the people of Sudan, and for the region as a whole. There is much to do, including implementing the CPA, creating a secure environment in Darfur for people to return to their homes, and negotiating a peace agreement. The UK Government are committed to helping the Sudanese people to achieve those goals. We will continue to work hard, with the AU—

The motion having been made at Seven o'clock, and the debate having continued for half an hour, Mr. Speaker adjourned the House without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.

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