EU praises Sudan peace deal, pegs new aid to progress in Darfur

Jan 2 (AFP)

The EU on Sunday praised the recent peace deal between the government and rebels in Sudan and said it was ready to unblock financial aid if progress was made in another Sudanese trouble spot, Darfur.

"I am glad to see that the determination and the political will of all the different parties involved prevailed," Louis Michel, European Union Commissioner for Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Aid, said in a statement.

The government in Khartoum and the main southern Sudan rebel group overcame the last sticking points at marathon peace talks in Kenya on Friday, to end Africa's longest-running conflict.

The signing of a comprehensive peace agreement is now scheduled to take place in Nairobi on January 9.

The Commission said it was ready to provide financial aid worth more than 400 million euros (540 million dollars) over the next three years to Sudan, following a 14-year period in which EU aid for the country was halted.

However, the statement added: "this process will, however, depend on the additional efforts to be made by all parties in order to improve the situation in Darfur."

"This support ought to encourage the former belligerents and the other forces ... to rapidly initiate a thorough political process aimed at establishing peace and development in all regions of the Sudan, including Darfur," Michel said in the statement.

The Naivasha accord did not include the conflict in Darfur, where thousands of people have died in clashes between rebels and Sudanese government-backed militias.

The region has become the scene of a major humanitarian disaster as more than one million people have sought to flee the fighting.

"Consolidation of peace is now the challenge which lies ahead. The signature of the agreement is the beginning of a long process that ought to lead all of the Sudanese people to live in safety and to benefit from economic and social progress," said Michel.