German Development Minister Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul said Berlin planned to put “massive” pressure on Burma’s junta so they “finally allow help for the people.”
“There cannot now be a catastrophe after the catastrophe,” she told the Friday edition of the Frankfurter Rundschau.
Wieczorek-Zeul stressed Germany was prepared to increase its immediate aid of €1 million to help alleviate people’s suffering after Cyclone Nargis left tens of thousands dead and even more homeless in the Southeast Asian country.
“But this aid has to arrive where it’s needed most,” she said, adding she planned to meet John Powell, deputy director of the World Food Programme, on Friday in Berlin to discuss the situation.
Wieczorek-Zeul also said she supported an initiative of French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner calling for the UN Security Council to increase pressure on the military regime in Burma.
She pointed out the UN Charta recognizes the necessity “to stand by people in need, even when their own government is opposed to it.”
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier on Thursday also appealed to Burma’s rulers to let in foreign aid after the devastating cyclone hit the country.
“The government is very concerned about the development of the situation there,” Steinmeier said after talks in Berlin with EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner.
“We call again on the government to let aid organizations and workers into the country,” he said, saying that a lack of cooperation was “still getting in the way.”
He said 10 members of Technisches Hilfswerk, the government agency specialized in post-disaster relief, were ready to go to Myanmar as soon as the authorities gave them the green light.
Later Steinmeier repeated the appeal in a phone call with his counterpart in Myanmar, U Nyan Win, the foreign ministry said. He also summoned Myanmar’s ambassador to Germany and repeated his concerns.
Ferrero-Waldner for her part described the situation as “incredibly catastrophic.”
“There is a shortage of everything. It’s drinking water and first and foremost rice that are needed. Swift aid is needed,” she said.
Estimates of the death toll from Cyclone Nargis, which pounded Burma’s low-lying south late Friday-Saturday, topped 100,000 on Thursday.
The reluctance of the military rulers in Burma, also known as Myanmar, to allow foreign experts and dedicated relief flights into the country has caused international frustration. Several foreign governments say it has compounded the misery for a million people homeless and short of food and water.