AU: Agreement on Abyei demilitarization done, more deals in works

09:50, June 21, 2011      

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North and south sides of Sudan have inked a deal on the demilitarization of Abyei and are in the midst of working towards other agreements, Thabo Mbeki, head of the African Union (AU) panel on Sudan, told a UN Security Council meeting Monday.

Mbeki, former president of South Africa and chair of the African Union High Level Implementation Panel on Sudan (AUHIP) briefed the Security Council via video conference from Addis Ababa about the successful agreement during the council's Monday morning meeting on Sudan.

He said in the agreement both north and south requested various interventions on the part of the United Nations with regard to the implementation of that agreement, said Mbeki.

Abyei, a border area that both north and south Sudan have made claims to, has been occupied since the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) of Khartoum entered on May 21, in retaliation for an attack a few days earlier by the south's Sudanese People's Liberation Army ( SPLA) that killed 22 people.

Under the agreement signed Monday, Sudanese soldiers must leave the area, which will be patrolled by Ethiopian peacekeepers instead.

The violence in Abyei has caused thousands of people living there to flee their homes and has hampered humanitarian assistance to those in need.

The UN must authorize and determine the size and mandate of the deployment of peacekeepers to Abyei. Mbeki said that the sooner that the UN Security Council makes its decisions, the better.

"We would like that to happen as quickly as possible because, among other things it will enable the displaced people in Abyei to return to their homes, which is conditional on the withdrawal of all of the other military forces, demilitarization of the area, and the replacement of the Sudanese military forces by the Ethiopian forces," he said.

The sovereignty of Abyei has become a very salient issue as Southern Sudan moves towards declaring official independence on July 9. Abyei was supposed to hold a referendum on its final status under the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), the agreement that ended a long war between north and south Sudan. However, due to conflict over what groups were eligible to vote in Abyei, this referendum never happened.

"It's also been agreed by the parties that it was necessary to resolve these current issues that relate to the security of Abyei before we come back to the consideration of the matter of the final status of Abyei," Mbeki said.

Another area of fighting in Sudan has been the South Kordofan state, where north and south are still engaged in combat. Mbeki said that AUHIP as well as other actors have organized a meeting between the parties to the conflict in Addis Ababa on Tuesday to discuss a cessation of violence.

"We are hoping they will engage seriously to comprehensive negotiations on South Kordofan, which will relate both to the security situation and political situation," he said.

Aside from security and political concerns, the parties to the negotiations in Sudan are hard at work on an economic agreement for the relations between north and south after South Sudan becomes its own country on July 9.

"I am very glad with regard to that good progress is being made, we've already finalized discussions which relate to matters of assets and liabilities, which of course include how to approach issues of international debt that Sudan carries," said Mbeki.

There is another package being discussed, he said, that will deal with trade, currency, and oil, and will hopefully be agreed upon by both north and south.

Source: Xinhua
 
 
     
 
 
 
     
 
 
 
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