By Lucy Craymer
WELLINGTON (Reuters) -British Foreign Minister James Cleverly will leave New Zealand Friday and cut his Pacific tour short, his office said, as he focuses on coordinating Britain's response to the Sudan crisis.
Cleverly had been scheduled to meet with Samoan officials and New Zealand Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta in Samoa on Friday before undertaking a bilateral meeting and press briefing Saturday in New Zealand.
"It’s with real regret that due to the ongoing situation in Sudan I’ve had to cut the visit short. I’ve learned a lot about the region, its opportunities and challenges," he said in a statement.
He said he had spoken with Mahuta and they had agreed to reschedule the visit as soon as possible.
The Foreign Office said on Thursday that Cleverly was skipping his Samoa stop and heading straight to New Zealand where he could better coordinate London's response to events in Africa.
Fighting has erupted across Khartoum and at other sites in Sudan this month in a battle between two powerful rival military factions.
Cleverly last week called on the Sudanese leadership to restrain troops and de-escalate, and on Friday on Twitter said he had held discussions with international partners on working collectively to resolve this conflict.
"The UK is working tirelessly for peace in Sudan. This violence must end," he said on Twitter. "Alongside our international partners, we call for a lasting ceasefire."
International powers have been struggling to evacuate citizens after the airport and several districts housing embassies were caught up in the violence.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Thursday appealed to Sudan's warring factions to observe a ceasefire over the Muslim Eid al-Fitr holiday to allow civilians to reach safe areas.
(Reporting by Lucy Craymer; Editing by Stephen Coates)