But, a word of caution from Associated Press writer Nedra Pickler, who noted that President Al bashir "rebuffed " Richardson's call for United Nations troops in Sudan.
Richardson’s other main objective was to get a cease-fire, and he
claimed accomplishment by issuing a joint press statement with al-Bashir that said both sides in the fight agree to a 60-day cessation of hostilities while they work toward lasting peace. However, many issues were outstanding, including whether al-Bashir would uphold his verbal agreement with Richardson when he has a history of breaking commitments.There is broad skepticism around the world about al-Bashir’s commitment to peace after years of support for local militia attacks on innocent civilians in Darfur. More than 200,000 people have been killed and 2.5 million forced to flee their homes in violence that President Bush has labeled genocide.
Here's the raw release:
New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson Gets Commitment for 60-Day Cease-Fire in Darfur Region of Sudan
KHARTOUM, SUDAN – New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson today announced that he has secured a commitment from Sudanese President Omer Hassan Al Bashir to agree to a 60-day cessation of hostilities in the Darfur region to allow for a new political process under the Darfur Peace Agreement and the auspices of the African Union and the United Nations. Governor Richardson also spoke this week with rebel leaders who said they would agree to a cease-fire. If all parties follow through with the cease-fire, the A.U. and the U.N. will convene a Peace Summit on March 15 under the framework of the peace agreement.
Governor Richardson also secured the following commitments from President Al Bashir:
· Agreed not to have the National military aircraft painted in white markings normally reserved for international organizations.
· Agreed that government forces would attempt to improve security conditions in all areas of Darfur with special emphasis on El Geneina, and would provide protection to food and other humanitarian convoys.
· Agreed to expedite procedures for entry visas for all humanitarian aid workers as well as goods. He also agreed to terminate the requirement of exit visas for humanitarian aid workers.
· Agreed to allow and facilitate travel by journalists from all over the world to Darfur.
· Governor Richardson and President Al Bashir reiterated that gender-based violence and such crimes must be condemned and prosecuted regardless of which party or organization was responsible. President Bashir said he would welcome a significant contribution of female members to the AU/UN hybrid operations. In addition the Justice Minister offered analyze and extend existing efforts to support Sudanese women against all gender-based violence.
Joint Press Statement on the conclusion of the visit by Governor Bill Richardson to the Sudan
7th – 10th January 2006
H.E Bill Richardson Governor of New Mexico accompanied by a delegation sponsored by and including members of the Save Darfur Coalition, the leading United States-based Darfur peace advocacy organization, conducted a visit to Sudan to discuss ways to secure peace in the Darfur region of Sudan and the protection of all civilians and other non-combatants. The Governor and the delegation visited EI Fasher and Nayala in Darfur, for meetings with internally displaced persons in Darfur, rebel groups that are signatories to the (DPA) as well as those which are not as of yet, international agencies, the United Nations, and humanitarian aid as well as the Wali of North Darfur and the Deputy Wali of Southern Darfur States and held meetings in Khartoum with H.E President Omer Hassan Al Bashir,Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr. Lam Akol Ajawin, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Mr. Ali Ahmed Karti and a number of high ranking Sudanese officials.
Both sides agreed that ending the conflict in Darfur is Sudan's and the international community’s highest priority. Peace, they agreed, can only come through a political settlement that is joined in by and addresses the needs of all parties, on the basis of the Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA) of 5 May 2006 reiterating their support for preserving Sudan's territorial integrity and the importance of respect for Sudan's sovereignty.
Both sides agreed that there was a compelling need for a comprehensive cease-fire to launch a political process based on the DPA that would lead to a durable end to the conflict as soon as possible. Both agreed to a 60-day cessation of hostilities by all parties within the framework of the DPA, accompanied by a start in African Union/United Nations diplomatic efforts, within the framework of the DPA, to begin narrowing the gaps between the non-signatories, including government approval of a field commanders' conference attended by the African Union and United Nations. This would be followed at the appropriate moment by an African Union/United Nations – sponsored peace summit, again in the framework of the DPA, no later than 15 March 2007. Simultaneously, both agreed that the UN needed to expedite as quickly as possible the provision of UN personnel agreed in Addis Ababa and further specified in Abuja in November 2006. President Bashir re-affirmed his commitment to continue to facilitate the deployment of UN personnel and equipment consistent with his agreement with the Secretary General of the UN on Phases II and III, including the eventual conclusions of the Tripartite Committee as stipulated in the DPA.
The two sides noted that Governor Richardson had secured a commitment from commanders of the Justice and Equality Movement and of the Non-Signatory Front to participate in a process including a 60-day cease fire agreement within the framework of the DPA. Governor Richardson and Save Darfur Coalition expressed their grave concern to all parties with whom they met about continuing and increasing attacks on civilians and other non-combatants.
They reiterated that gender-based violence and such crimes must be condemned and prosecuted regardless of which party or organization was responsible, noting that Governor Richardson and the Save Darfur Coalition emphasized the need in all their meetings for implementing mechanisms to ensure that "zero tolerance" policies towards gender-based violence be applied in practice, quickly and robustly. Governor Richardson noted with appreciation President Bashir's commitment to welcome a significant contribution of female members to the AU/UN hybrid operations. Both sides expressed their grave concern at allegations of gender based violence by United Nations personnel in South Sudan.
Governor Richardson and the delegation also met with the Under-Secretary of Justice, the Rapporteur of the Advisory Council for Human Rights and Dr. Attigatt who presented a briefing on Sudanese Government efforts to institutionalize protections for women. The Governor and the delegation accepted the offer to work with the Ministry to analyze and extend existing efforts to support Sudanese women against all gender-based violence.
President Bashir and Governor Richardson also agreed that more light needs to be shed on the full situation in Darfur. President Bashir agreed to allow and facilitate travel by journalists from all over the world to Darfur.
The two sides underscored the need to disarm all armed groups, including the Janjaweed, pursuant to the provision of the DPA, and further agreed not to have the National military aircraft painted in white markings normally reserved for international organizations.
President Bashir agreed that government forces would attempt to improve security conditions in all areas of Darfur with special emphasis on El Geneina, and would provide protection to food and other humanitarian convoys. They also agreed that humanitarian aid agencies have greatly assisted the Government and people of Sudan by providing much needed emergency and development aid in Darfur and other parts of Sudan. President Bashir agreed to expedite procedures for entry visas for all humanitarian aid workers as well as goods. He also agreed to terminate the requirement of exit visas for humanitarian aid workers. President Bashir noted with satisfaction the strong statements by the Save Darfur Coalition to rebel commanders condemning attacks by their members on humanitarian aid operations and agreed to initiate an ongoing dialogue with the Save Darfur Coalition aimed at ending the violence in Darfur and on achieving a political solution to the crises.
The two sides agreed to apprise African Union Special Envoy Salim Ahmed Salim and United Nations Special Envoy Jan Eliasson of these developments, so that the African Union and United Nations will facilitate the commanders meeting and launch the political discussion and to maintain regular communication assessing progress on these important initiatives to identify areas of difficulty on which further engagement may be necessary to ensure rapid progress and durable outcomes.
Both sides agreed that an improvement of relations is in the mutual interest of both countries.