China wants Sudan war crimes crisis 'soft landing': envoy
KHARTOUM (AFP) — China's special envoy to Darfur on Sunday called for a "soft landing" to a crisis sparked when the world court prosecutor demanded a formal indictment of the Sudanese head of state for war crimes.
International Criminal Court judges are looking at evidence presented in July to decide whether to issue an arrest warrant for President Omar al-Beshir on 10 counts of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur.
Sudan, whose most powerful ally is China, is campaigning to stall any possible ICC proceedings and convince a sceptical West that it is serious about unblocking stalled peace efforts in Darfur.
"I am here for consultations with the government of Sudan and to give them our advice and to make a few concrete suggestions," said China's special envoy, Liu Guijin, fresh from talks in London, Paris and Washington.
"I used those opportunities... to have consultations with our partners there in the West as to how could we work together to seek a kind of soft landing of the charge," he said.
He said the West would like Sudan to do more to speed up the deployment of a UN-led peacekeeping operation in Darfur and move forward with a political process to resolve the nearly six-year conflict.
"Anyhow things are moving towards a good direction," Liu said.
He praised Sudan for cooperating with the peacekeeping deployment and for indicating a willingness to resume political talks -- stressing that other "political forces" would also have to agree to sit down at the table.
UN officials have also praised a considerable improvement in cooperation from the Sudanese government over the deployment.
The envoy also backed Khartoum's appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate atrocities in Darfur -- a move that incited strong criticism from rights activists abroad.
"The international community in general, or as a whole, needs to take a balanced perspective on the issue here in Darfur," Liu told reporters.
"We hope the ICC indictment could have a kind of soft landing so as the political process could be continued... and the humanitarian as well as security situation there could be further improved," Liu told reporters.
The Darfur conflict began in 2003 when ethnic minority rebels took up arms against the Arab-dominated regime and state-backed militias, fighting for resources and power in one of the most remote and deprived places on earth.
China, the main buyer of Sudan's oil and a key investor in the economy, has repeatedly been accused of not doing enough to make Khartoum stop the war.