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International Development

Darfur Peace Agreement

The Secretary of State for International Development (Hilary Benn): I am also making this statement on behalf of the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs.

The UK Government warmly welcome the signature on 5 May of the Darfur peace agreement (DPA) by the Government of Sudan and the largest faction of the main rebel group—the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army (SLM/A).

We congratulate the signatories to the agreement for having had the courage to take this important step towards peace. We strongly urge the other two rebel movements to demonstrate the same spirit and to sign the agreement without further delay. We also commend the tireless efforts of the African Union (AU) mediation, led by the AU's special envoy Dr. Salim Ahmed Salim.

Signature of the DPA follows almost two years of negotiations in Abuja, during which the UK maintained a permanent observer presence. My right hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw), the former Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Office Affairs, visited the talks in February this year, and I spent four days at the talks during the final push to secure an agreement.

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This is an historic agreement. It will give the people of Darfur the opportunity to vote on regional government in a referendum. It guarantees representation for the rebels and for Darfur in general in government in both Khartoum and Darfur, as well as in key institutions such as the judiciary and civil service. It also grants Darfur a share of the national wealth, including a special fund to rebuild and develop the region. Most importantly for the millions of internally displaced persons in camps, the DPA includes enhanced ceasefire and final security arrangements aimed at restoring peace and security to the region, as well as integration of the movements' forces into Sudan's armed forces and security forces.

The challenge now is to turn the agreement into peace on the ground. We urge the parties urgently to implement the agreement, including, as a first step, by the rapid appointment of the relevant positions within Government and forming the necessary commissions. They should work to communicate the benefits of the deal to the people of Darfur and begin preparations for the Darfur-Darfur dialogue to bring the non-Abuja stakeholders on board. The Government of Sudan should also now accept the proposed handover to a UN mission and facilitate access to Darfur for the technical assessment mission to prepare for transition.

The international community also has an important role to play. We must continue to support the AU as it takes on its new responsibilities in Darfur, ahead of the proposed handover to a UN mission; and we should continue to apply pressure on and support to the parties to ensure implementation stays on track. The international community also has an active role to play in the Joint Assessment Mission to assess Darfur's reconstruction needs. This needs to be concluded rapidly, ahead of a pledging conference where donors will be called upon to make significant contributions towards meeting these needs.

The UK stands ready to play a full part in supporting implementation. On 6 May, I announced an additional £9 million to the UN's Common Humanitarian Fund, on top of the £40 million already allocated, to help
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address urgent humanitarian needs in Darfur and elsewhere in Sudan. The Foreign Secretary attended a Ministerial Security Council meeting on 9 May. This agreed on the need for a continued focus on implementation of the DPA and improving security in Darfur.

Darfur now stands at a critical juncture. Its people have suffered for far too long and it is now for their leaders, with of course the support of the UK and the whole international community, to give them the chance to rebuild their lives. The DPA provides the best opportunity to achieve this and we urge all those involved to seize it.

Northern Ireland

Forest Service Agency

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (David Cairns): This statement sets out the key performance targets for Forest Service.

Forest Service is an executive agency of the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development for Northern Ireland. It is responsible for promoting the interests of forestry in Northern Ireland, the development of afforestation, the production and supply of timber and the maintenance of adequate reserves of growing trees. This includes the delivery of social, recreational and environmental benefits for the public at large. In March this year, a strategy for the delivery of forestry policy in Northern Ireland was published and I have set the agency the following targets for the 2006-07 business year to give effect to this:

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