Series: US embassy cables: the documents
US embassy cables: China plays a strong hand on Sudan
guardian.co.uk, Friday 17 December 2010 21.30 GMT
Thursday, 04 September 2008, 10:56
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 KHARTOUM
DEPT FOR AF A/S FRAZER, S/E WILLIAMSON, AF/SPG
NSC FOR PITTMAN AND HUDSON
ADDIS ABABA FOR USAU
EO 12958 DECL: 08/12/2018
TAGS PGOV, PREL, KPKO, UNSC, AU-1, SU, CM
SUBJECT: CHINA COUNSELS SUDANESE ENGAGEMENT, U.S. RESTRAINT
IN ICC PROCEEDINGS AGAINST BASHIR
Classified By: CDA Alberto M. Fernandez,
Chinese officials urge caution on prosecution president Omar al-Bashir, insisting it will only serve to destabilise Sudan. Key passages highlighted in yellow.
1. (C) Summary: During his recent visit to Sudan, Chinese Special Envoy Zhai Jun strongly counseled the GOS to remain prudent in dealing with the threatened arrest warrant for President Bashir and to continue to engage with the international community, according to Chinese Ambassador Li. Zhai even suggested that Sudan contact the ICC itself. Li encouraged the USG to consider shared interests in Sudan,s stability and not to veto a UNSCR postponing the ICC proceedings. CDA Fernandez thanked China for its helpful message to the GOS, and reported that the USG has made no decision whatsoever regarding an Article 16 vote. He emphasized that the USG’s primary concern remains tangible improvements in the situation in Darfur, the recent violence by the regime in Kalma Camp was a setback, and thus far the USG sees no reason to postpone ICC action. End Summary.
Special Envoy Zhen,s Message to Khartoum
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2. (C) On September 3, Chinese Ambassador Li Cheng Wen briefed Charge Fernandez on Chinese Special Envoy and Assistant Foreign Minister Zhai Jun,s recent visit to Sudan. Zhai, who is responsible for Africa and the Middle East, inaugurated the new Chinese consulate in Juba and discussed the possible ICC indictment of President Bashir with GOS officials in Khartoum. On the latter issue, Li stated that Zhai expressed grave concern about the negative effect an ICC indictment would have on resolving the Darfur crisis. Zhai found Bashir to be quite receptive.
3. (C) According to Li, SE Zhai praised the GOS for its calm handling of the matter thus far, and encouraged GOS officials to continue to mobilize internally and engage the international community, including the UN Security Council and especially the P-5. Zhai also made a “friendly suggestion” that the GOS consider communicating with the ICC itself, either directly or indirectly. Li expressed hope that such contact could influence and perhaps “curb the next steps” in the ICC process. He stated that the GOC views ICC indictment not only as a political, not a legal matter. As such, it is encouraging the GOS to pursue both legal and political solutions to the problem.
ICC Action Threatens Darfur Progress
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4. (C) Li stated that the GOC is extremely worried about how the ICC indictment will affect stability in Darfur, asserting that it has hardened the rebels’ stance towards peace. He believes that GOS officials now understand the gravity of the situation they have created over the years, and hopes they will heed GOC advice continue to engage with the international community. “Not heating up this matter is in the interest of all parties,” he said.
5. (C) CDA Fernandez thanked Li for China,s helpful and useful message to the GOS. He noted that while the United States shares GOC concerns about Sudan,s stability, its primary focus is achieving tangible improvements in the situation in Darfur, especially in regards to humanitarian access. He continued that while GOS contact with the ICC might influence P-5 members France and the UK, it does not by itself concern the United States, which is not a party to the ICC.
6. (C) Li concurred that the GOS could do more to speed up humanitarian access and take other positive actions but cautioned that “only pressuring the Sudanese government is no use.” Continued antagonism serves to strengthen the suspicions of hardliners within the NCP that the West is plotting against Sudan, he said. Rather, “we need to engage with them” to help solve the Darfur crisis. Both agreed that there is some anecdotal evidence of regime infighting about what is the best strategy: cooperation or escalation.
7. (C) Li expressed puzzlement at perceived British and French support for ICC Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo. He stated that “whoever had a role in creating this problem will bear responsibility” if Sudan descends into chaos as a result of the ICC indictment, adding that such an outcome could have been easily forecast. He declared that destabilization of Sudan is in no one,s interest, adding that “to help Sudan is to help ourselves. I hope the British and French understand this philosophy.” He observed that French companies have oil interests in Sudan as well as in Chad. CDA Fernandez agreed that an ICC indictment will
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present great challenges to achieving peace in Darfur, but commented that the decision to indict President Bashir was may bave been made by an overzealous prosecutor and is not the result of “high politics” or a conspiracy by the West. He noted President Bashir’s sweeping claims to want to change the situation in Darfur for the better, “we want to see tangible results, not words or process.”
U.S. Should Not Block Delaying ICC Action
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8. (C) CDA Fernandez’ meeting with Li followed a flurry of erroneous media reports that China is expected to “veto” the issuance of an arrest warrant for President Bashir. (Note: For example, the newspaper Akher Lahza ran a story with the headline “China Does Not Rule Out Veto To Invalidate Ocampo’s Allegations,” which noted that “President Bashir received a verbal message from his Chinese counterpart expressing a his country’s support for Sudan regarding Ocampo’s allegations,” but that “Peking denied reaching the stage of using a veto to invalidate the ICC prosecutor’s procedures because the case is still in its primary phase.” Another daily, Al-Rae’d, ran a headline “Chinese veto awaits Ocampo.” End Note.) Li acknowledged that these reports suggest a fundamental misunderstanding of role of Article 16 of the ICC Statute by the Sudanese public, and that it is a P-3 veto of a deferral of the ICC proceedings that GOS must worry about. He urged the USG to think of its and Chinese “mutual interests” in Africa when making a decision. “Stability is in the interests of all parties,” he said. “It’s what we should work for in the New World Order.”
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9. (C) Li’s concern that the issuance of an arrest warrant for President Bashir could have profound destabilizing effects are well founded. Combined with the end of the rainy season and renewal of rebel activity on both sides of the Chad-Sudan border, the ICC indictment could set off a chain reaction of violence and instability. China’s encouragement of GOS internal mobilization and international engagement, including with the ICC, is both useful and helpful, but its unclear whether the NCP even has the capability, let alone the willpower, to take any action towards solving the crisis if it can decide what those steps should be.