Certainly, as Mark writes (and as NYT blog “The Lede” picks up here) the U.S.’s willingness to sign on to a UN Security Council statement voicing support for the ICC is a big deal, and possibly — hopefully — a sign in a gradual shift in the U.S.’s stance toward the Court. Even more significant, perhaps, was the quieter acceptance of China and Russia — who had blocked a similar attempt in December 2007 — to supporting the ICC’s work in Sudan this bluntly. This month’s statement may not have been as strong as some member countries, particularly Costa Rica, which led the charge on this effort, would have liked, but it clearly represents the effects of pressure on the players with the most influence in Sudan.

Libya had opposed the original wording of the statement and only agreed to support it after the language was watered down to support an “end to impunity” instead of explicitly demanding compliance with ICC arrest warrants, council diplomats said.

They said China most likely supported the statement on Sudan to avoid drawing more unnecessary attention to its close ties with Sudan ahead of the Beijing Olympics.

Supporting the ICC by name and even more robustly would have been preferable, but that likely would not have changed Sudan’s obdurate response anyway. The fact that China is responding to advocacy efforts tied to the controversial Beijing Games may herald a shift with an even greater potential impact on bringing Darfur’s war criminals to justice than the U.S.’s evolving position on the ICC.

(Elsewhere in the world of the ICC, the news was not so good, as the Court has suspended, on technical grounds, the prosecution of Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga Dyilo — scheduled to sit in the ICC’s first trial, which would have begun next Monday.)

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