October 15, 2016 (KHARTOUM) – The United Kingdom has urged the Sudanese government to allow the United Nations access to Jebel Marra area in Darfur to investigate allegations of chemical weapons use.
Last month, Amnesty International accused the Sudanese government forces of using chemical weapons repeatedly against civilians in Darfur over the past eight months, saying chemical attacks are believed to have killed up to 250 people.
However, Khartoum dismissed as “fabricated and unfounded accusations” Amnesty’s allegations saying it aims to obstruct “the pioneering efforts” to achieve peace and stability and to promote reconciliation in Sudan.
In a statement extended to Sudan Tribune on Saturday, the British embassy in Khartoum said UK’s Minister for Africa, Tobias Ellwood has expressed to Sudan’s Foreign Ministry Under-Secretary Abdel-Ghani al-Na’im his “deep concern about the situation in Jebel Marra and called on the Sudanese Government to allow the UN and others full access to these areas to monitor events and look into allegations such as chemical weapons use.”
Intense fighting took place earlier this year between the Sudanese army and the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM-AW) led by Abdel-Wahid al-Nur in Jebel Marra areas forcing thousands of residents to flee the area.
Jebel Marra, which spans over three states including North, Central and South Darfur, is located at a water-rich area that is characterized by mild climate.
Meanwhile, the statement pointed that Al-Nai’m, who concluded a two-day visit to London for the second round of talks in the Sudan/UK strategic consultations, has discussed with Ellwood prospects of future bilateral ties between the two nations.
According to the statement, Ellwood stressed that “UK remains keen to see this relationship develop and to see the UK becoming a leading partner in the development of a peaceful and prosperous Sudan”.
He urged the Sudanese government “to seize the opportunity offered by the African Union Road Map to agree a cessation of hostilities in Darfur and the Two Areas”, calling on all parties “to enter an inclusive political dialogue about the future of the country”.
Last March, the African Union High-Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP) and the Sudanese government signed a framework agreement calling to stop war in Blue Nile, Darfur, and South Kordofan and to engage in the national dialogue process.
In August, four groups from the opposition umbrella Sudan Call including the National Umma Party (NUP) and three armed groups; Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/North (SPLM-N), Sudan Liberation Movement – Minni Minnawi (SLM-MM) and Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) endorsed the deal.
The peace plan provides that the Sudanese governments and rebel groups should engage in talks to reach agreement on a cessation of hostilities and humanitarian access before the Sudan Call forces join the government-led national dialogue.
However, on 14 August following six days of talks in Addis Ababa, the armed movements and the government negotiating teams failed to conclude a deal on the security arrangements and humanitarian access prompting the mediation to suspend the talks indefinitely.
It’s noteworthy that the strategic consultations meetings between the two countries started in March in Sudanese capital, Khartoum and considered the first talks of its kind at this level in 25 years.
Sudan and Britain agreed to exchange of visits at the level of senior officials from the two countries along with increasing cooperation in the fields of economy, investment and culture.
During his first visit to Khartoum last September, UK Special Representative for Sudan and South Sudan, Christopher Trott expressed his optimism about the relations between Khartoum and London and expressed hope to strengthening contacts between Sudanese and British peoples.