International Development written question – answered at on 19 December 2006.

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Photo of Lynda Waltho Lynda Waltho PPS (Mr David Hanson, Minister of State), Northern Ireland Office

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what discussions the Government have had with the Sudanese Government on increasing areas in which humanitarian programmes may operate.

Photo of Hilary Benn Hilary Benn The Secretary of State for International Development

Over the last few months, attacks on humanitarian agencies have led to the evacuation of staff and the suspension of their operations in a number of locations throughout the Darfur states. This has reduced the area in which humanitarian assistance can be delivered, and poses a severe threat to an already fragile situation. The ability of agencies to return to these areas is contingent upon an improvement in security, which in turn requires finding a political solution to this crisis.

The UK remains at the forefront of efforts by the international community to achieve this. Recent meetings in Addis Ababa mapped out a way forward, including the need for an immediate and strengthened ceasefire; a renewed political process to bring in the non-signatory rebel groups to the Darfur Peace Agreement; and a hybrid Africa UnionUnited Nations (AU-UN) peacekeeping force.

We welcome the fact that the African Union Peace and Security Council extended the mandate of the AU force and endorsed the Addis Ababa conclusions. The staged deployment of UN support packages to the AU force leading to a joint operation needs to happen without delay in order to restore security, protect civilians, ensure humanitarian access and implement security aspects of the Darfur Peace Agreement.

The UK Government has been in regular discussion with the Government of Sudan on the requirements to end the conflict. We are pressing them to take forward these agreed steps in full co-operation with the AU and UN and, in doing so, proving that it is taking its responsibilities seriously.

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