, KHARTOUM, May 7 – The United Nations’ top humanitarian official on Thursday welcomed a move by Sudan to allow international aid agencies into the country after 13 of them were expelled from war-torn Darfur in March.
"I welcome the assurances… that not only UN agencies are welcome here to work on the humanitarian side but international NGOs, national NGOs of course are welcome (including) new NGOs," John Holmes told reporters.
"There’s a degree of flexibility about that which I hope will be helpful as we go forward," he said after talks with Sudan’s minister for humanitarian affairs.
On Wednesday, senior Sudanese aid official Hassabo Mohammed Abdelrahman said Khartoum was ready to allow foreign aid groups to operate in the war-torn region of Darfur but ruled out the return of 13 aid agencies expelled in March.
Sudan expelled the agencies and local aid groups after the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague issued an arrest warrant for President Omar al-Beshir over alleged crimes against humanity in Darfur.
Sudan accused the NGOs of spying and working for the ICC.
In April, US Senator John Kerry said some humanitarian aid to Darfur would be resumed, after he met officials in Khartoum.
According to diplomatic and humanitarian sources in Khartoum, the US has asked Sudan to accept the return of expelled aid groups in return for the creation of a roadmap aimed at normalising relations between both countries.
US envoy to Sudan Scott Gration was also in the country on Thursday, on his second visit in a month. He held talks with presidential adviser Nafie Ali Nafie and first Vice President Salva Kiir.
The United Nations says 300,000 people have died — many from disease and hunger — and 2.7 million others been made homeless by the Darfur conflict which erupted in 2003.
Khartoum puts the death toll at 10,000.