As reported on our blog last night, President Obama had a strong message on the situation in Darfur following his meeting yesterday with United Nations Secretary-General Ban ki-Moon. President Obama emphasized the need for coordinated international action to get lifesaving assistance back on the ground in Darfur by reversing President Bashir’s decision last week to expel 13 international humanitarian organizations and shut down several Sudanese organizations operating in Darfur. The president noted,
It is not acceptable to put that many people’s lives at risk…We need to be able to get those humanitarian organizations back on the ground.
In his meeting with Secretary Ban, President Obama reportedly advocated for strong action through the U.N. Security Council to put pressure on Khartoum to reverse its decision. The President is undoubtedly vesting his full confidence in his Ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, who said on Tuesday that the United States is urging the African Union, the Arab League and the Organization of the Islamic Conference to use their influence and tell the Sudanese government to reverse the expulsion of key humanitarian organizations. As these actors continue to call for an Article 16 deferral of the International Criminal Court arrest warrant issued last week against Bashir, Ambassador Rice’s diplomatic efforts in New York are essential.
After the meeting, Obama also told reporters:
The United States wants to work as actively as possible to try to resolve the immediate humanitarian crisis and to start putting us on the path for long-term peace and stability in the Sudan.
Darfur was a topic of discussion at the State Department’s daily press briefing yesterday as well, and acting spokesman Robert Wood echoed both the president’s and Ambassador Rice’s remarks. While Wood declined to discuss the specifics of the U.S.’s strategy, he emphasized that pressuring the Sudanese government to reverse its decision on NGO operations is the first priority.