Part of Oral Answers to Questions — International Development – in the House of Commons at 1:48 pm on 3rd June 1998.

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Photo of Clare Short Clare Short Secretary of State, Department for International Development 1:48 pm, 3rd June 1998

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right; it is a humanitarian disaster. Many such disasters have already occurred, and more will come.

This disaster is a direct result of the war. The area where the famine is has been fought over by a faction that changed sides; consequently, people have been displaced and crops uprooted. The famine has been compounded by the fact that the Sudan Government would not allow us access, and by the fact that, now that they have, the southern factions will not allow a ceasefire. It is our duty to provide humanitarian relief, but we shall not solve the problem in that way.

We have done our best to send a message during the crisis—a message from all the people of the world who are concerned. The Sudan Government changed their position: they allowed more access and offered a ceasefire. The southern factions, however, have not responded. Following my statement in the House, we put pressure on both sides in our European Union presidency role. The Governments of the surrounding countries—comprising the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, or IGAD—are trying to broker peace talks; the last round did not lead far, but further talks will take place in July or August, hosted by Johannes Pronk, the Netherlands Minister for Development Co-operation.

The whole international community must put pressure on both sides. No side can win the war by fighting: if the fighting continues, the people of Sudan will continue to suffer. We must do all we can to call for a ceasefire and a reasonable settlement.