What if on the eve of George Bush's announcement of a new war plan for Iraq, peace broke out someplace instead?
Well, maybe it is. Several days ago Bill Richardson was asked by the Save Darfur Coalition to go to Darfure and try to arrange a cease fire so that the U.N. could start working there. The reason they asked Richardson is that he has a long track record of success in everything from hostage negotiations to representing U.S. interests as a former U.N. ambassador.
According to a press release from Bill Richardon's office
KHARTOUM, SUDAN – New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson today announced that he has secured a commitment from Sudanese President Omer Hassan Al Bashir to agree to a 60-day cessation of hostilities in the Darfur region to allow for a new political process under the Darfur Peace Agreement and the auspices of the African Union and the United Nations. Governor Richardson also spoke this week with rebel leaders who said they would agree to a cease-fire. If all parties follow through with the cease-fire, the A.U. and the U.N. will convene a Peace Summit on March 15 under the framework of the peace agreement.
Governor Richardson also secured the following commitments from President Al Bashir:
· Agreed not to have the National military aircraft painted in white markings normally reserved for international organizations.
· Agreed that government forces would attempt to improve security conditions in all areas of Darfur with special emphasis on El Geneina, and would provide protection to food and other humanitarian convoys.
· Agreed to expedite procedures for entry visas for all humanitarian aid workers as well as goods. He also agreed to terminate the requirement of exit visas for humanitarian aid workers.
· Agreed to allow and facilitate travel by journalists from all over the world to Darfur.
· Governor Richardson and President Al Bashir reiterated that gender-based violence and such crimes must be condemned and prosecuted regardless of which party or organization was responsible. President Bashir said he would welcome a significant contribution of female members to the AU/UN hybrid operations. In addition the Justice Minister offered analyze and extend existing efforts to support Sudanese women against all gender-based violence.
I hope that this 60 day cease-fire does indeed lead to an extended peace negotiation. But considering it was patched together by an American peace coalition and a guy whose actual power ends a few miles east of Clovis, it makes one wonder what the White House and George W. Bush could accomplish if they focused their efforts on diplomacy instead of making war.
One big reason why I support Bill Richardson if he does run for President is because after the big mess that the next President will inherit both in Iraq and internationally, we will need the best diplomat in the White House that we can get, and I believe that Bill Richardson is about the only candidate running or likely to run who has proven that he could be that diplomat.