Home | News    Wednesday 26 May 2004

EU welcomes aid access to Sudan’s Darfur but warns over militias

BRUSSELS, May 26 (AFP) — The European Union welcomed Wednesday an easing of restrictions on aid workers operating in Sudan’s battle-scarred Darfur region but called on Khartoum to do much more against "gross abuses" by militias.

"The European Union welcomes the decision by the government of Sudan to lift restrictions on humanitarian agency workers travelling to Darfur," the 25-nation bloc said in a statement.

"The EU expects that the Sudanese authorities will implement the decision expeditiously and that access to Darfur for humanitarian agencies will be unhindered at all levels."

The International Committee of the Red Cross says it has received better access to the region since a meeting with Sudanese President Omar al-Beshir in March.

At least 10,000 people have been killed in Darfur since rebels rose up in February 2003, prompting an all-out assault by government forces and their Arab militia allies.

UN officials have said pro-government forces are committing massive human rights violations in a "reign of terror" that may amount to crimes against humanity.

In its statement, the EU said it was "deeply troubled" by the UN reports and echoed the UN Security Council in calling on the Khartoum government to honour pledges to disarm the militias.

"The European Union calls on the government of Sudan to publicly condemn the actions of the Janjaweed militias in Darfur and bring the militias under control," it said.

"The government of Sudan has a responsibility to effectively protect local populations and IDPs (internally displaced people) from gross abuses by armed groups."

The Darfur conflict has continued to rage despite a peace accord between Sudan’s government and the main rebel group active in the Christian south designed to end 21 years of civil war.