During a visit to Sudan, Germany's foreign minister has expressed 'deep concern' for refugees displaced by ongoing conflict. Westerwelle has urgently called for cooperation between the divided north and south.
Westerwelle kicked off his two-day tour in north Sudan
Germany's foreign minister, Guido Westerwelle, embarked on a visit to Sudan on Thursday, some two weeks before the north and south of the country officially separate.
He began his visit in the capital Khartoum, where he told a news conference he was "deeply concerned" about the plight of civilians displaced by the ongoing conflict in central Sudan.
"The urgent situation of the refugees forced to flee the fighting in Abyei and South Kordofan makes us deeply concerned," Westerwelle told a news conference in Khartoum.
North and South Sudan are battling over the contested central regions of Abyei and South Kordofan where fierce clashes have raged between government forces from the north and troops loyal to the south. The clashes in Abyei center on distribution of income from the region's oil resources.
The conflict has worsened since South Sudan voted in favour of independence by a landslide majority earlier this year. The United Nations estimates that the conflict has displaced more than 70,000 people.
A further 110,000 people from the contested Abyei district are thought to have fled south after the northern army occupied the area last month.
During a meeting with his Sudanese counterpart Ali Ahmad Karti, Westerwelle called for urgent cooperation between the north and south to end the humanitarian crisis.
Central Sudan has witnessed increasing violence in recent months
"We are asking the authorities of North and South Sudan to quickly agree on a lasting solution in the border areas, for the sake of these people who are suffering," he said.
"The world is looking at Sudan... It is absolutely crucial that all the open questions are solved in a peaceful way. Negotiation and cooperation is ten times better than any kind of confrontation," he added.
To aid the plight of displaced civilians, Westerwelle pledged a further one million euros ($1.4 million) in humanitarian aid. The UN World Food Programme will distribute food aid in the Abyei and Kordofan region, Westerwelle said.
Additional funds will go to "Doctors without Borders" for medical supplies and to St John's Ambulance to support refugees in South Darfur. So far this year, Germany has provided a total of 4.2 million euros in humanitarian aid to Sudan.
Westerwelle's visit came just one day after US President Barack Obama called for an immediate ceasefire in Sudan's South Kordofan state. Alluding to reports that government forces had embarked on a campaign of ethnic cleansing, he described the situation in the region as "dire."
Both parties must now "end the current violence and allow immediate humanitarian access to desperate people who have been driven from their homes and are now cut off from outside help," he said.
A series of controversial issues, including borders, security, oil and citizenship, are yet to be resolved ahead of South Sudan's formal declaration of independence on July 9.
On July 1 Germany will occupy the rotating chair of the UN Security Council and thus will be responsible for accepting the newly independent country into the United Nations.
Westerwelle's final stop will be South Sudan
First visit to Darfur
Later Thursday, Westerwelle became the first German foreign minister to travel to Darfur.
In a three-hour stay, he spoke to representatives from the United Nations as well as the governor of North Darfur, Yusif Kibir.
Violent fighting between government troops and insurgents has long plagued the region. Since 2003, an estimated 300,000 people have been killed in Darfur and 2.7 million have been forced to flee.
There are currently around nine thousand German soldiers and five thousand policemen in Darfur as part of a UN and African Union peacekeeping mission.
There were no plans for Westerwelle to meet President Omar al-Bashir who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for allegedly ordering crimes against humanity in Darfur.
Westerwelle will conclude his trip on Friday when he flies to South Sudan to meet its president Salva Kiir.
Author: Charlotte Chelsom-Pill (dpa, AFP, dapd, epd)
Editor: Susan Houlton