SUDAN WATCH: Darfur no-fly zone impossible says top EU soldier - Sudan criticizes US VP contenders Palin, Biden over Darfur flight ban

Monday, October 06, 2008

Darfur no-fly zone impossible says top EU soldier - Sudan criticizes US VP contenders Palin, Biden over Darfur flight ban

In April 2006, a panel of UN experts proposed a possible no-fly zone over Darfur. As noted here at Sudan Watch on 27 April 2006, the panel's report recommended that with both the Sudanese government and rebels in Darfur violating UN resolutions, the Security Council should move swiftly to impose further sanctions, expand an arms embargo, and consider setting up a no-fly zone for government planes.

One year later, in April 2007, and noted here at Sudan Watch on 22 May 2007, US President George W Bush raised the prospect of a no-fly zone over Darfur, and Britain said it wanted the UN Security Council to impose a no-fly zone on Sudan as part of sanctions including broadening an arms ban.

Darfur no-fly zone impossible says top EU soldier

On 22 May 2007, a Reuters report by Mark John quoted a top European Union soldier as saying that to stop Sudanese military aircraft flying over Darfur is technically impossible - quote:
".... General Henri Bentegeat, the Frenchman who heads the EU's top military body, said the size of the 500,000-square-km (200,000-square-mile) territory made such a plan unfeasible.

"A no-fly zone is technically impossible. Darfur is around the same size as France," Bentegeat, who heads the EU Military Committee on which the bloc's 27 member states coordinate defence policy, told Reuters in an interview.

"You would need at least 60 combat aircraft to enforce it correctly. And there would be the question of distinguishing between helicopters," Bentegeat warned of possibly lethal confusion between Sudanese, UN and other aircraft.

He said there was no alternative to maintaining pressure on Khartoum to let international troops join a 7,000-strong African Union force that has so far failed to quell the violence.

"Darfur has descended into chaos," said Bentegeat, whose postings in the French army included Senegal and Djibouti. "The only viable solution is the deployment of a very large force that would throw a security net around the region."
Sudan criticizes US VP contenders Palin, Biden over Darfur flight ban

And so here we are today, Monday, 06 October 2008, noting the following Reuters report by British journalist Andrew Heavens based in Khartoum, Sudan (editing by Dominic Evans) dated Sunday, 05 October 2008. Excerpt:
Sudan criticizes Palin, Biden over Darfur flight ban

Sudan criticized both U.S. vice-presidential contenders on Sunday for suggesting they might support a no-fly zone over Darfur, saying the plan showed they knew little about the conflict.

United Nations officials, aid groups and rebels have repeatedly accused the Sudanese government of using Antonov aircraft and helicopters to attack rebel positions and villages in more than five years of fighting in Darfur.

Many activists have called for the U.N. to police a no-fly zone over the region to stop attacks.

Sarah Palin, the Republican governor of Alaska, said she supported a flight ban in Sudan's remote west during a televised debate with her Democratic rival Joe Biden on Thursday.

Biden, the Democratic senator from Delaware, did not explicitly call for a ban but said: "I don't have the stomach for genocide when it comes to Darfur. We can now impose a no-fly zone. It is within our capacity. We can lead NATO if we are willing to take a hard stand."

But Sudanese foreign ministry spokesman Ali al-Sadig on Sunday dismissed the statements of both candidates saying a no-fly zone would be impractical and useless.

"They know very little about what is going on here," he said. "Their statements were meant for local consumption. They had nothing to do with Darfur."

Sadig said an air ban would be ineffective because the Sudanese armed forces were not using aircraft in their ongoing struggle against rebel groups in Darfur.

He said government planes and helicopters were only being used to fight bandits and protect humanitarian convoys.

"It would be a very short-sighted move. Curbing the actions of the armed forces would impede the flow of humanitarian aid to Darfur and tie the hands of the government in its efforts to prevent attacks on aid convoys," he added.

Earlier his year, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said he would like to move ahead with a no-fly zone for Darfur "if it were at all possible."

But British foreign ministry officials later said they were not pursuing a ban because it would restrict humanitarian work. Darfur's size and a shortage of planes to monitor the ban would also make it "a major logistical challenge," they added. The remote western region is roughly the same size as Spain. [Sudan Watch Ed: or the same size as Turkmenistan!]
Click here to view some reports in Sudan Watch archives re no-fly zone over Darfur.
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UPDATE WEDNESDAY 8 OCTOBER 2008

Currently and over the past day or so, news content at Sudan Tribune has, for some reason, disappeared or been removed but I was able to obtain, via a Google search, Google's cache of the following report:

US-led no-fly zone would ‘impede’ aid to Darfur - Sudan
Monday 6 October 2008 04:31.

By Daniel Van Oudenaren

October 5, 2008 (WASHINGTON) – Sudanese foreign ministry spokesman Ali al-Sadig on Sunday responded to U.S. politicians who suggest enforcing a no-fly zone over Darfur, saying it would be impractical, useless, and would restrict humanitarian aid.

Both Senator Joe Biden and Governor Sarah Palin, respectively the Democratic and Republic nominee for vice president of the United States, spoke favorably Thursday of imposing a no-fly zone over Darfur.

The government of Sudan has repeatedly used Antonov aircraft and helicopters to attack rebels and villages in Darfur, according to official experts’ reports to the United Nations Security Council.

This violence has prompted activists to encourage the U.S. president to use military aircraft to enforce a no-fly zone, as the U.S. did in Iraq in the wake of the first Gulf War, where it worked with the United Kingdom and France in an effort to protect Shiite and Kurdish populations that had been targeted after they revolted against Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

"They know very little about what is going on here," said Sadig, in response to Palin and Biden. "Their statements were meant for local consumption. They had nothing to do with Darfur."

The presidential candidates themselves, Senator Barack Obama and Senator John McCain, have endorsed a no-fly zone over Darfur, in response to identical questionnaires submitted by the Enough Action Fund, the Save Darfur Coalition and the Genocide Intervention Network – all United States activist groups.

McCain said that he would “seek a Security Council resolution endorsing such a mission and work to persuade our allies [in NATO] to join us in its implementation.”

Obama said, “I have co-sponsored resolutions calling on the President to work with international partners to enforce a no-fly zone in Darfur. While the U.S. has provided aid and military resources to the African Union mission in Darfur, I believe this is America’s moment to lead the way toward ending this crisis.”

Sadig said an air ban would be ineffective because the Sudanese armed forces were not using aircraft in their ongoing struggle against rebel groups in Darfur. McCain, however, in his response to the activist groups, referred to “recent bombing of civilian targets in Darfur—including a school, water works, and a market.”

He said government planes and helicopters were only being used to fight bandits and protect humanitarian convoys.

"It would be a very short-sighted move. Curbing the actions of the armed forces would impede the flow of humanitarian aid to Darfur and tie the hands of the government in its efforts to prevent attacks on aid convoys," he added.

Likewise, British foreign ministry officials also recently reportedly said they are not pursuing a no-fly zone because it would restrict humanitarian work. They also cited a shortage of planes and referred to the idea as "a major logistical challenge." (ST)

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