Yesterday, Andrew Natsios and Jean-Marie Guehenno told an audience at the Brookings Institution that the next six weeks were period of crucial importance to Darfur. Their remarks came three days after Sudanese representatives to peace talks held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia agreed in principle to a hybrid United Nations-African Union force for Darfur, but said they needed time to consult with their leaders in Khartoum.Echoing the sentiments of Natsios and Geuhenno, Kofi Annan said the agreement in Addis Ababa could be a “turning point.” Speaking to reporters in Geneva today, Annan also said that he expects a response from Khartoum “today, or latest tomorrow.” Meanwhile, Sudan has expelled one of the largest aid organizations in South Darfur, the Norwegian Refugee Council, accusing it of “espionage.”
The situation is quite clearly fragile. This could be a moment of considerable progress for international efforts to bring human rights and rule of law to Darfur, or it could presage the total collapse of humanitarian operations in Darfur – a consequence of which Jan Egeland has said could result in as many as 100,000 deaths per month. How Khartoum responds to the Secretary General will give us a good indication of which track we can expect.