Home | News    Saturday 24 July 2004

EU foreign policy chief telles Sudan to disarm militias

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Javier Solana

BRUSSELS, July 24 (AFP) — The European Union’s foreign and policy chief, Javier Solana, has called on Sudan to disarm the Arab militias blamed for slaughtering civilians in the Darfur region of western Sudan and demanded unfettered access to the region for humanitarian groups, a spokeswoman said.

Solana dined earlier with Sudanese Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail and, according to spokeswoman Cristina Gallach, "emphasized the need for all parties to respect the cease-fire and for the government to act without delay on the disarmament of the Janjaweed militias, under supervision of the African Union (AU) monitoring mission."

Solana’s demands brought the European Union into line with the United States, which on Friday demanded that Sudan halt the violence by the Arab Janjaweed militias or face sanctions.

Washington presented a draft UN Security Council resolution this week authorizing sanctions against Sudan if it fails to prosecute leaders of the pro-government Janjaweed groups.

Dutch development minister Agnes van Ardenne during a meeting with Ismail on Saturday expressed "her deep concern about the situation in Darfur," according to her spokeswoman.

The Netherlands, which currently holds the EU presidency, believes "it is the responsibility of the Sudanese government to find a solution," the spokeswoman told AFP.

Rebel groups rose up against Khartoum in February 2003, claiming that the mainly black African region had been ignored by the Arab government. In return, the government and its loyal Janjaweed militias responded with a brutal armed crackdown that aid and rights groups have called a massive campaign of ethnic cleansing.

UN emergency relief coordinator Jan Egeland said the death toll could be as high as 50,000. About 1.2 million people have been forced from their homes during the 17 months of conflict, and some 200,000 have taken refuge in neighboring Chad, which borders on Darfur province.

Gallach said Solana had "urged the government to arrest the leaders of the Janjaweed, as a first significant step towards the dismantling of these militias, which are held accountable for most of the human rights violations in Darfur."

She said he had "acknowledged improvements in terms of humanitarian access to Darfur, but underscored the European Union’s wish for full and unhindered humanitarian access."

"He also expressed the European Union’s satisfaction with the decision by the government of Sudan to send a high-level delegation to the start of the political talks in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia," she said.

"Javier Solana hoped that the next round of talks scheduled for the beginning of August would provide more concrete outcomes."

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