EU leaders urged tougher sanctions against Sudan to stop the ongoing bloodshed in the Dafur region. The calls came amid worries that a fragile peace deal would to collapse, worsening the humanitarian crisis.
Fighting in Darfur has displaced 2.5 million people
German Chancellor Angela Merkel offered harsh criticism of Sudan's President Omar Hassan al-Bashir for not allowing United Nations peacekeepers into the country. Her remarks came amid the pomp of the European Union's 50th anniversary celebrations in Berlin.
"We think of the people in Zimbabwe and Darfur. The suffering there is unbearable," Merkel said. "We must look at stronger sanctions."
The Sudanese government in Khartoum has blocked plans to deploy UN peacekeepers to replace African Union troops struggling to contain the violence in the western region. The EU imposed an arms embargo on Khartoum in January 2004. But this weekend EU leaders and human rights activists said more needs to be done to end one of the world's worst humanitarian disasters.
EU leaders discussed Darfur during the weekend's EU celebrations
Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair said the situation in the western Sudanese region was "intolerable." He said had been a major area of discussion as EU leaders met over the weekend.
Blair called for enforcing a no-fly zone over the vast Darfur region of Sudan to keep government planes from firing on fleeing refugees.
"The issue is: We need to get a new resolution to extend the sanctions regime against key individuals," Blair said. "The brutal action of the Sudanese government is completely unacceptable."
Blair was accompanied by Ishag Mekki, a representative of a London-based group, Darfur Union. Mekki's elder sister, a mother of eight, was killed in her home in Darfur. Mekki issued an emotional plea to world leaders to help stop. The EU should not celebrate its achievements of the past century while people in Darfur are being killed, Mekki said.
"Every time genocide happens the leaders of the EU say 'never again,'" Mekki said. "These are empty words because it is happening now."
EU urged to take action
African Union soldiers have struggled to control the violence in Darfur
The press conference was organized by Live Aid founder Geldof, who called for an immediate travel ban and an asset-freeze against Sudanese officials.
"You should refuse to let them travel to Europe for their dental and hair appointments, you should stop them buying our luxury goods and freeze all assets of the Sudanese government," Geldolf said.
Those immediate steps should be "followed within weeks by tougher sanctions, a no-fly zone over Darfur and the deployment of a UN force to impose peace," he said.
On Saturday, 10 leading European thinkers and writers, including Nobel literature laureates Harold Pinter and Günter Grass, urged EU leaders in an open letter to interrupt the anniversary celebrations and act to stop the bloodshed in Darfur.
Geldof called the conflict a genocide and said it was shameful that the EU was not doing more to stop it as the bloc was born in response to World War II and the Holocaust.
"It is a spurious idea that we have lots to celebrate -- the sense of betrayal is much greater," he said. "The EU arose out of genocide and we have failed to honor that shared value."
Since fighting between rebels and government-supported militias started in 2003, approximately 200,000 people have died and 2.5 million have fled their homes. The conflict has caused one of the world's worst humanitarian crises.
Peace deal near collapse
Humanitarian help in Darfur remains fragile, the UN says
On Sunday, a fragile peace deal signed between the government and the rebel Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) seemed ready to collapse after SLM members got into a shootout with police Saturday. The shooting left approximately a dozen people dead. The SLM has threatened to resume fighting and move the conflict to the capital city of Khartoum, the AFP reported.
"What happened reveals a will to move from peace to a state of war," SLM leader Minni Minnawi said. He accused the government of provoking the incident as "an attempt by the government to sabotage the peace process."
"We are prepared to resume the war and from Khartoum, if the government wants to fight," Khamis Tayeb, a spokesman for the SLM, told AFP.
The United Nations' new humanitarian chief John Holmes said the humanitarian effort in Darfur remains fragile. If fighting resumes, the humanitarian crisis could worsen, Holmes warned, after touring a refugee camp in Sudan on Sunday.
"People aren't starving and health conditions are decent," he told reporters at the camp. "This shows the enormous humanitarian effort that has been made here for three years, but
this humanitarian effort is fragile.
"If the situation deteriorates, it could collapse," he added. "The risk is high, it is not imminent but if things deteriorate, people (aid groups) may not want to maintain their efforts, which could lead to a humanitarian collapse."