US President Barack Obama, declaring the violence in Darfur and inaction in the face of its worsening humanitarian crisis are “not acceptable,” pledged today to work more closely with the United Nations to bring peace to western Sudan’s conflict-wracked region.
Mr Obama’s response during a nearly hour-long White House meeting with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon significantly ratcheted up the US response to Sudan President Omar al-Bashir’s expulsion of 13 aid groups.
Mr Obama described Darfur as an ongoing crisis that has only got worse with the Sudanese president’s decision to kick out some of the most important non-governmental aid organisations after the Hague-based International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant charging him with war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur.
The UN estimates that the decision threatens more than three million people with the loss of food aid, health care or suitable drinking water.
“It is not acceptable to put that many people’s lives at risk,” Mr Obama said. “We need to be able to get those humanitarian organisations back on the ground.”
Mr Ban, in turn, told Mr Obama that 2009 is a “make-or-break” year for the organisation and its member countries, and that he hopes the United States will work with the international organisation to address global warming and the humanitarian crisis in Darfur.
Mr Ban’s top priority this year is to encourage global leaders to adopt a new international climate treaty at a conference in December in Copenhagen.
He emphasised that the US and other leaders of the world’s largest developed economies “should not lose sight of the challenges and plight of hundreds of hundreds of millions of poorest people of the developing countries who have been impacted by this economic crisis”.
“I am going to focus and work together with the leaders of the world to address this issue, to unlock all this massive investment for the green economic recovery, and also to save our planet,” Mr Ban told Mr Obama. “This is an issue of our era. I count on your strong commitment and leadership.”
It was the first meeting of the two leaders since the inauguration.