Germany on Sunday hailed a peace accord between the Sudanese government and southern rebels as a big, but only first step in bringing stability to the African country. "The signature of the peace accord is only a first step, albeit a big one," said the German envoy to Sudan, Kerstin Müller. "The international community must watch over and support the practical application of the accord." The accord, which brings 21 years of conflict to a close, was signed in Kenya on Sunday by Sudanese Vice President Ali Osman Taha and main rebel leader John Garang of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A). But Müler warned that more had to be done to resolve the crisis in Sudan's Darfur region and she said that Germany would continue its aid programme to the troubled area in 2005. "The humanitarian crisis in human rights terms in Darfur continues to be a dramatic one that requires our political and humanitarian commitment," she said in a statement. Some 70,000 people have been killed in Darfur and 1.6 million people left homeless since Sudanese troops and their militia allies began fighting Darfur rebels in February 2003. he cornerstone of the accord is a protocol exempting the south from Sharia law and granting it six years of self-rule after which it will vote in a referendum on whether to remain part of Sudan or secede.