BRUSSELS, Feb. 3 (UPI) -- Darfur deserves the same level of attention as last month's referendum for secession for South Sudan, Europe's top foreign policy chief told lawmakers.
Voters last month took part in a referendum for self-determination for South Sudan. The measure was part of a comprehensive peace agreement reached in 2005 that ended a bloody civil war in the country.
International rights groups complained the referendum overshadowed lingering conflict in Darfur, though Catherine Ashton, the European Union's foreign policy chief, said that wasn't the case.
"We recognize that Darfur deserves the same high level attention that has recently been focused on CPA implementation," she told lawmakers in Brussels.
Ashton described the referendum as a "historic moment" for Sudan but warned there was no time for complacency in dealing with the country.
A referendum for the border region of Abyei was sidelined, Ashton said, and there are many issues in the post-referendum period that need to be settled.
She maintained, however, that while she was "deeply concerned" about Darfur and other outstanding issues in Sudan, the European commitment to peace was unwavering.
"We owe it to the Sudanese people in both North and South to stand by them and offer support and encouragement at this critical time," she said.