European Commission statement on Southern Sudan

The European Commission condemns the explicit threat made by the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) to the safety of humanitarian agencies who do not sign the Memorandum of Understanding between NGOs and the Sudan Relief and Rehablitation Agency (SRRA) before March 1st. Such a threat is completely unacceptable and the Commission calls for this ultimatum to be lifted. The Commission considers the ability of humanitarian agencies to deliver humanitarian assistance in a neutral, independent and secure framework as being of utmost importance. It considers the decision whether to sign or not to sign the Memorandum of Understanding as one to be taken by each NGO independently and, consequently, does not deem it appropriate to sanction NGOs that sign under duress. However, the forced evacuation of non-signatory NGOs under threat to their lives from SPLA areas is considered as a serious breach of international humanitarian law which jeopardises the delivery of assistance in line with internationally recognised principles. The responsibility for this situation must rest with the SPLA. Consequently, the Commission currently sees no basis for the continuation of funding for humanitarian assistance in areas where the conditions for delivery of aid according to humanitarian principles do not exist. The Commission is acutely aware of the existing humanitarian needs of the people of Southern Sudan and hopes that the SPLA is aware of the possible consequences of an expulsion of NGOs. The Commission is ready to support any initiative that will break the impasse and lead to the resumption of negotiations but reiterates the point that this can only happen without the threat of an ultimatum.