On the afternoon of March 7, 2008, Ambassador Liu Guijin, the Chinese Government's Special Representative on the Darfur Issue held a briefing to Chinese and foreign journalists and the information officers of foreign embassies in China at the invitation of the International Press Center (IPC). Qin Gang, Deputy Director-General of the Information Department hosted the briefing.
Liu Guijin: I just concluded a visit to Sudan. Prior to the visit I paid a two-working-day visit to Britain and later visited Chad. I also held consultations with the French foreign ministry at a stopover in Paris on my way back to China.
The main purpose of my visit to Sudan is to push for the settlement of the Darfur issue. Currently the deployment of hybrid peacekeeping operation faces difficulties and there lacks progress of the political process. Some problems occurred between Sudan and Chad not long ago. I visited Chad with the purpose of persuading both countries to further improve relations. In Britain I met with some parliamentarians, delivered a speech and held press conference in Chatham House and also met with a number of officials including British Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and the foreign affairs consultant of British Prime Minister. I met with President Omar el-Bashir, his assistant Nafie and the newly appointed Foreign Minister Deng Alor in Sudan. I also met with UN-AU Joint Special Representative for Darfur Rodolphe Adada and US President's Special Envoy for Sudan Rich Williamson. I held talks with President Deby in Chad.
Now the floor is open.
Q: The US Congress passed a resolution yesterday opposing President Bush and Congress members' presence at the Beijing Olympic Games because the international community thinks China has not done enough on the Darfur issue. What is your comment on that?
A: You must have heard Mr. Bush saying on many occasions that he himself and his family members will come to Beijing to watch the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games. As far as I'm concerned, political leaders of many countries have expressed the same positive attitude. At a hearing on the Olympic Games held by the German parliament not long ago, chairman of German Olympic Committee who is also the vice president of the International Olympic Committee made it clear that sports mean building a bridge between people and facilitating their communications instead of erecting a wall between them. More and more political leaders as well as people in the sport and other communities around the world have realized it goes against the Olympic spirit to politicize the Beijing Olympic Games and is fiddle-faddle to link the Beijing Olympic Games with the Darfur issue. China has made active and constructive efforts on the Darfur issue, which has been widely recognized by the international community. A tiny number of people who want to bring shame on China with the Darfur issue are doomed to fail.
Q: The Sudanese government boomed and launched joint military operations in some districts of Darfur recently. What did you talk with President Bashir in this regard?
A: The humanitarian and security situation in West Darfur has indeed deteriorated recently. To support the hybrid peacekeeping operation of UN and AU, Sudan set up a committee headed by President Bashir. The main members of the committee include Presidential Assistant Nafie and the Under Secretary of the Sudanese Foreign Ministry Mutrif al-Sadig. During meetings with them, I raised China's concern over the recent situation in West Darfur. The Sudanese side gave me some explanation. Since December last year the most influential rebel force in the district launched attack against the government force and occupied three districts of West Darfur. The government force fought back and caused casualties, to which the Sudanese government felt deep grief and concern and promised to pay attention in the future operations.
West Darfur suffers the worst security situation and most frequent wars among the three Darfur districts and the causes are quite complicated. I hope the international community, while imposing pressure on the Sudanese government, exerts influence on the two sides of the fighting as well as related parties so as to stop the war at the earliest date possible. The Chinese side will continue to play its part to persuade parties concerned to exercise the maximum restraint and seek settlement through peace talks. The international community must speak in one voice to solve the Darfur issue. That is, the "hybrid operation" must be deployed as soon as possible, but what is more or equally important is to accelerate the political process. At present the political process just halts. There are only two out of the five political parties agreeing to participate in the negotiations and the other three raise conditions which in no way can be met. There remain difficulties for the political process to move ahead and war to truly stop. In particular, some political parties fight against each other for territory of influence in order to seek more benefits, better position and more rights. The attacks in areas under the jurisdiction of the government and the fight among rebel forces for land make the humanitarian situation in Darfur even worse. Those problems need to be addressed with the joint efforts of all parties concerned.
Q: According to many Arabic media, China exercises an anaesthesia policy to Sudan. Has China contacted any opposition parties to impose pressure on the Sudanese government for its concession? If yes, who are those parties? And what are talked about with them?
A: The basic policy of China for solving the Darfur issue has no substantial difference with that which the western countries openly declare. At many open international conferences on settling the Darfur issue which I have attended, some representatives of western countries in their speeches also stressed the consistency with China's policy on the Darfur issue. For example, western countries also propose solving the Darfur issue through political instead of military means and paying attention to promoting political process while pushing for the hybrid peacekeeping operation of UN and AU. We all agree that the international community should speak in one voice and impose balanced influence on the Sudanese government and the rebel forces. As to how to realize those policy goals and seek political settlement of the Darfur issue, the emphasis and priorities and the methods of different parties might vary. We maintain sound communications, dialogue and coordination with western countries including the US, Britain, France as well as EU. I myself have visited the US twice and EU once and recently France and Britain. The Chinese side hopes to push for the solution of the Darfur issue and enhance mutual understanding through communications and talks. Meanwhile, during my contacts with colleagues of western countries and the Sudanese government, I have also tried my best to encourage them to make efforts to establish a certain degree of basic trust and create a sound atmosphere. With deep hostility and without basic mutual trust, it will be extremely difficult to solve the issue. I find in such contacts that for the same problem if the two sides hold completely different opinions it will be very difficult to solve it.
China has no formal direct contact with the rebel forces in Darfur and the resistance movement in Sudan, but I have initially contacted some Sudanese political forces. During the latest visit to Sudan I met with the leader of SLM Minawi and his major assistant. We exchanged opinions on the Darfur issue. When visiting South Darfur, I talked with some representatives of opposition parties in South Darfur's temporary transitional agency, listened and conveyed to them China's clear message, i.e. China hopes to make friend with all the Sudanese people, not only those in the north but also in the south and Darfur region and we are ready to contribute to promoting the national reconciliation and ending war chaos in Sudan.
Q: China always believes politics should not be linked with the Olympic Games. Do you hold this briefing today to illustrate that point? After Spielberg declared resignation from the Beijing Olympic Games, the spokesperson of the Chinese foreign ministry said the Chinese side respects his decision and hopes to increase mutual understanding and common consensus through dialogue. What's your comment on Hollywood's boycott against the Beijing Olympic Games?
A: China feels deep sympathy for the humanitarian disaster in Darfur, and we have provided lot of humanitarian assistance. We welcome and remain open to any suggestion on the Beijing Olympic Games and are willing to discuss and hear all the reasonable opinions. However, we firmly oppose those hostile actions aiming to bring shame on China by using the Olympic Games and boycotting the Games with the excuse of the Darfur issue. We have conducted dialogue with some organizations holding different opinions on the Beijing Olympic Games. During my visit to the US last September I talked with the several heads of "Save Darfur Coalition" for more than one hour. They told me that their goal is neither to boycott nor to oppose the Olympic Games, but to use the Olympic Games to force the Chinese government to change its policy to Darfur. I told them China's policy to Darfur is not wrong and has been recognized by a majority of countries, including the political leaders of some western countries. A larger number of developing countries also agree on China's policy to Darfur. We have no reason or necessity to change such a policy. I met with Spielberg in New York last September. I told him that I know you are no longer the artistic advisor to the opening ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games because the Organizing Committee for the Beijing Olympic Games stated most clearly to your attorney you failed to sign the formal contract before the deadline. Notwithstanding, you are a celebrity and a well-known director. Since you care about the Darfur issue, I am willing to exchange opinions with you on it. I spent more than an hour introducing to him in great detail China's policy on the Darfur issue. He told me: I've done something for the Beijing Olympic Games and will continue to support it. The so-called "resignation" event later is unexpected to me.
Opposing to politicize the Olympic Games does not start from the Beijing Olympic Games. The organizers of the past Olympic Games all followed such a principle. The Los Angeles Review recalled that at the 19th Mexico Olympic Games two American black athletes raised fists with black gloves at the medals podium to protest against the US discrimination policy to black people and were immediately ejected. The then IOC president said that once stepping into the holy gate of the Olympic Games you have to put politics outside. Therefore to politicize Olympic Games is a behavior in the cold war era. Since the cold war has ended, a tiny number of people with cold war mentality and colored glasses should give up such behavior. Although doing this may raise the fame of and win votes for some people, it will hurt the Olympic spirit in the long run.
Q: I have personally seen Ambassador Liu played a constructive role of promoting China-Africa friendship no matter in Zimbabwe or South Africa. Years later I see Ambassador Liu is rushing around for the Darfur issue. You said you had seen the deterioration trend of Darfur situation in some aspects. Could you tell us except your visit what other efforts China has made? You said the international community must speak in one voice to solve the Darfur issue. What kind of common consensus the international community needs to reach to speak in one voice?
A: On the first question, I would like to tell you what I saw in South Darfur in one single day during my visit to Sudan last week and from this perspective explain to you what China has done to solve the Darfur issue, especially the humanitarian crisis in Darfur. I visited the large water supply project built with Chinese assistance in Sudan. Under the project 20 deep wells will be dug at a distance of 85 km away and pipeline covering this distance be built to transmit water to the capital area of South Darfur where the peacekeeping force will stay in the future and water is in serious shortage. Chinese companies have started the project and a large number of pipelines been in place. But one section of the 85 km is controlled by one faction of the SLM where security situation is rather poor. I talked with related people of the faction and asked them to provide security guarantee for us. In addition, we have dug 46 wells and built 20 small power plants in Darfur. When I was in South Darfur, the local people held a fairly large gathering. The reason is that last year China offered them RMB80 million of assistance and with that money they built hospitals, bought ambulances and four-wheel drive vehicles. I also visited a local refugee camp to which China offered over 100 mobile clapboard houses as classrooms for students. Chinese business donated 30 computers and a set of remote equipment to a local technology institute. I saw all these assistance of China to South Darfur in a single day. China is the first country outside Africa dispatching a multi-function engineering unit for the hybrid peacekeeping operation. The first batch of 140 people have arrived there and started leveling land, constructing fence, building barracks and digging wells at appropriate places to prepare for the arrival of the mass troop. Our second batch of 175 persons has got well prepared and will set out once the UN peacekeeping force gives the order. China has made tangible contributions to the hybrid peacekeeping operation. On July 31, 2007 when China held the presidency of the UN Security Council, Resolution 1769 authorizing the deployment of hybrid peacekeeping operation was adopted. China, together with other countries, has made great efforts for this resolution. China is committed to pushing forward the political process. We remain a firm supporter for the efforts of UN Secretary General's Special Envoy Eliasson and Special Envoy of AU to Sudan Salim and have donated US$500,000 funding their actions. All of our efforts aim to solve the Darfur issue as soon as possible.
Q: US Secretary of State during her visit to China said China would dispatch combat unit in addition to the engineering unit to join the hybrid peacekeeping operation. Could you confirm how many people will be dispatched?
A: I am not informed of that. But as far as I know, the focus of China now is to fulfill our promise. That is to ensure the multi-function engineering unit composed of 315 persons is in place as soon as possible. As far as I am concerned, China has not yet sent combat unit to Darfur.
Q: The deployment of hybrid peacekeeping operation is postponed indefinitely. What is the deadline of the Chinese engineering unit to leave Sudan? As to China's arms sale to Sudan, will China restrict the use of the weapons?
A: One of the major objectives of my visit to Sudan is to push for the earliest deployment of hybrid peacekeeping operation. I met with the three-person group of Sudan for supporting the UN and AU hybrid peacekeeping operation composed of Sudanese President, the Presidential Assistance and the Under Secretary of the Sudanese Foreign Ministry. I also met with Mr. Adada, the UN-AU Joint Special Representative for Darfur and former foreign minister of the Republic of Congo. The information I get from the Sudanese government is completely identical with that from Mr. Adada. Many technical problems hindering the deployment of hybrid peacekeeping operation have been solved. Now I would like to list the problems which have been solved and the causes. First, the Status of Force Agreement signed by Sudanese foreign minister and Mr. Adada on February 9 this year. It takes such a long period of time to solve the problem because the Sudanese government at first seemed not to be willing to grant the conditions which it gave the AU joint force earlier to the hybrid peacekeeping force. After the consultations of the international community, especially those of AU and UN with Sudan, the Sudanese side agreed on the related requirement of the hybrid peacekeeping force. Second, the so-called night flight right issue. There are many reports on it, including some rather sensational ones. But the reason is not because the Sudanese government does not want to grant the night flight right, but because that the airport is too poorly equipped to hold any night flight. It is just impossible for plane to land. To solve this problem UN and AU need to provide fund. Third, the use of land of the hybrid peacekeeping force. The land stationed by the hybrid peacekeeping force does not belong to the Sudanese government but some tribes of Darfur. To use the land, the hybrid peacekeeping force needs to reach agreement with the tribes through negotiations. Now this problem has been settled. Fourth, customs clearance of container transportation. The Sudanese Customs has changed related rules to prevent containers from being stranded in Port Sudan. Now the customs clearance of materials supplied to the hybrid peacekeeping force is handled very fast. Fifth, passport and visa. With the passport issued for the hybrid peacekeeping operation, you can apply for visa to enter the Darfur region.
There remain two major pending problems. First, the problem of troop-contributing countries. We hope Sudan can be flexible towards that. Sudan holds some reservations on Thailand and Nepal's dispatch of forces. The main reason is that Africa is required to send 8 battalions of infantry, but African countries have agreed to send 16 battalions, which is quite enough. The infantry Egypt and Ethiopia are willing to send has been approved by UN. Sudan and Mr. Adada believe that the dispatch of force of Thailand and Nepal should not hinder the deployment of the mass troop. The forces of Egypt and Ethiopia should have been deployed. I am not clear why they are still not in place. There might be some technical problems. Why priority should be given to the deployment of African forces? According to the agreement reached by AU, UN and the Sudanese government on November 26, 2006, the hybrid peacekeeping operation should have strong African characteristic and first of all meet the requirement of African countries of sending forces. Second, the biggest difficulty faced by the hybrid peacekeeping operation is the lack of 24 helicopters for air support. It is a pity that no country is willing to offer the 24 helicopters, including the western countries. Furthermore, the problem of transportation battalion is also to be solved.
It needs the efforts of both the Sudanese government and the international community to accelerate the deployment of hybrid peacekeeping operation. The Chinese government has made lots of efforts. I am not trying to defend the Sudanese government. I just want our journalist friends to know the truth. I hope you report the true story objectively.
As to the weapons, I would like to reiterate the position of the Chinese side. First, China is one of the suppliers of weapons to Sudan. There are at least 7 countries providing Sudan with weapons, and China is not the largest supplier. In September last year the Sudanese Defense Minister made explanation on this issue when answering media question, you may refer to that. Second, Sudan is the third biggest producer of conventional weapons in Africa only behind Egypt and South Africa and is able to produce some arms and ammunition. Third, UN has no resolution or rule on arms embargo against Sudan. Fourth, I can say in a responsible manner that China observes even stricter rules when selling weapons to Sudan than many other countries. We do not sell weapon to non-state actor, but only to state actor. We control the performance and restrict the quantity of the weapons we sell. We also require strict final user certificate and do not allow providing the exported weapons to any third party.
China only has a very small share in the world weapon market. The biggest seller of weapon is not China. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, China was not the biggest seller of weapons in the world and only made up 2.1% of total arms sales worldwide in 2006. According to a report released by the US Congress in September last year, the US sold 36% of all the conventional weapons sold to the developing countries, Russia 28%, Britain 11%, German 6% and China only 3%. I can also offer a source of information that we have resumed the UN seven categories of conventional weapons registration mechanism. All of our arms transaction is recorded at the UN.
It is totally ungrounded to unilaterally accuse China on the Darfur issue, blame China's arms sale for the genocide and link it with the Olympic Games and boycott the Games. Such opinions are not objective, fair or faithful.
Q: What specific suggestions does China have to solve the pending problems of hybrid peacekeeping operation? You said the international community should make efforts to prevent the deterioration of situation and humanitarian crisis in West Darfur. What role will China play in this regard?
A: To solve the entire Darfur issue, including the deployment of hybrid peacekeeping operation and addressing the deterioration of humanitarian and security situation in West Darfur needs the joint efforts of all parties of the international community. First of course is the Sudanese government because Darfur is Sudan's Darfur. The Sudanese government should make greater efforts. Second, the opposition forces, or the so-called resistance movement forces should play their part, come back to the negotiation table, stop fighting for territory control and attacking police outposts, cities and villages. Third, UN and AU should make best use of the three-party mechanism to solve technical problems. Some technical problems should not be politicized. Now there remain some obstacles to the communications of the three-party mechanism. I have raised clear suggestions to the Sudanese government to solve problems through the three-party mechanism with UN and AU. In particular, the efforts the Sudanese government has made can be clarified to the outside world through UN or AU. Fourth, other countries in the region are an important factor. The Darfur issue has existed for several decades. Sudan once suffered from colonial ruling. The same tribe living along the border is divided into parts of different countries or regions. As a result, some members of a tribe to which certain opposition force belongs live in Sudan and others live in neighboring country. Therefore, countries in the region should show sincerity and take a cooperative attitude. Fifth, the entire international community and the permanent members of the UN Security Council, including China, should make joint efforts and not send wrong message so that the opposition forces in Darfur will not misunderstand. The Sudanese government should not misunderstand the information from outside. It should listen to the opinions of the international community and further adopt flexible measures to solve the pending problems. Only with concerted efforts can the Darfur issue be settled. China does not pursue self-interest, but hopes substantially solve the Darfur issue. Only when this issue is solved, the interest of Sudan, the international community, including that of China can be protected.
Q: How much oil has China bought from Sudan? If neighboring countries like Chad participate in the efforts of settling the Darfur issue, will China think this might influence its oil cooperation with Sudan?
A: The oil cooperation between China and Sudan only started a dozen of years ago. We mainly work with our partners, especially some Asian countries like India and Malaysia and the Sudanese government for oil exploitation. Of course we have also bought some oil from Sudan. In the major oil blocks of Sudan we do not hold the majority equity. I do not think it is wrong to cooperate with Sudan on oil. This time I visited the Sudanese refinery. Since China and its Asian partners help Sudan explore, develop and process oil, the Sudanese economy has grown rapidly. In the past, the IMF suspended Sudan's voting right due to its arrear, but Sudan paid it off the second year after it started exploring oil. In recent years Sudan has the fastest GDP growth in Africa, which people might rarely know. Last year Sudan's GDP grew by 11% and 9% the year before last year, which is clearly attributable to its oil industry. The recent instability in the southern part and the northern border of Sudan has more or less influenced oil production, but it has no substantial influence.
Q: Who sends the wrong message to the rebel forces which makes them believe the longer they fight the better?
A: Some rebel forces expect the western countries to impose pressure on the Sudanese government and hope such pressure will give them a more favorable position in the future negotiations, which might be one of the reasons why they are not interested in this kind of talks, according to many scholars and experts. It is hoped that the international community sends clear statement and message unanimously, especially to the rebel forces so that they do not misunderstand.
Q: There are many places suffering from war chaos, but China only appoints a small number of special envoys. Why? You have visited Darfur several times. If necessary will you visit Sudan once again? China plays a unique role to solve the Darfur issue. In what aspects such uniqueness is demonstrated?
A: There are indeed many war conflicts and hot spots around the world. China appoints specific persons to make communications on some long-term issues about which the international community is concerned to help solve such issues appropriately. For example, we have special envoy on the Middle East issue and special envoy on the Korean issue. I am the special representative on both African affairs and the Darfur issue. Because the Darfur issue draws worldwide attention and the international community hopes China plays a bigger role, the Chinese government, at the request of the international community, appoints a special representative on the issue. I hope to work with Sudan and other parties concerned in this capacity. We take such a relationship as a lever to raise suggestions to the Sudanese government in an equal manner and urge it to adopt a more cooperative attitude and show greater flexibility. Up to now we have played a unique role in this regard. No matter which country you contact or work with, you must respect its territory and sovereignty integrity and hold consultations with it on an equal footing. Only in this way can you achieve better results. Since May last year I have visited Sudan four times and in the future may visit it again as required by the situation. Furthermore, at related international conferences I have met with Sudanese leaders on many occasions. The purpose is to make efforts and exchange opinions with Sudan. On the Darfur issue, we propose cooperation of the international community instead of conflict and sound communications among big powers instead of disputes or intensification of contradictions.
Qin Gang: With that we conclude today's briefing. Thank you, Ambassador Liu Guijin and thank you, the media friends for attending the briefing.