11 November 2011
Security Council
SC/10445

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Security Council

6656th Meeting (AM)


Neither Sudan Nor South Sudan Building Beneficial Bond Given ‘Very Low Trust,


Heightened Rhetoric, Mutual Accusations’ between Them, Security Council Told


Neither Side Seems Ready to Return to War, But Pattern of Escalation,

Destabilization Could Lead to Large-Scale Confrontation, Says Peacekeeping Chief


A concerning escalation of tensions along the border areas between Sudan and South Sudan could flare into widespread violence unless both sides recommitted to finding peaceful solutions to pending issues, the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations warned the Security Council this morning during a briefing on recent developments in those countries.


“The situation in Sudan and South Sudan is at a difficult juncture, with a very low trust between the countries, heightened rhetoric, and mutual accusations,” said Hervé Ladsous, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, briefing the Council on observations from his first visit to the two countries, from 30 October to 6 November.  “In this environment, neither country is making sufficient progress toward building a strong, mutually beneficial relationship.”


While neither side seemed ready to return to war, Mr. Ladsous said, during his visit there was a concerning pattern of escalation and destabilization that could lead to a large-scale confrontation, putting more civilians at risk.  It was “absolutely imperative” that both Governments take steps to de-escalate the situation, ensure civilian lives were protected and resume peaceful dialogue to address tensions in the border areas, he said.


To date, a number of Comprehensive Peace Agreement benchmarks remained unresolved and a major source of tension between Sudan and South Sudan, including the resolution of the final status of Abyei, the holding of popular consultations in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile States, border demarcation and oil revenue sharing, he said, reading from a briefing by Haile Menkerios, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan.


Tensions flared at the eruption of fighting in Southern Kordofan State, internal strife in South Sudan and delays to demilitarize the common border zone, according to Mr. Menkerios, following his several weeks of consultations with both Governments and the African Union High-Level Implementation Panel.


In addition, Mr. Menkerios reported that, while Sudan and South Sudan were engaged in negotiations under the auspices of the African Union’s Panel, escalating mistrust and tension had triggered a great concern for the future of peace and security between and within the countries.  He urged the Council to encourage negotiations and warn against escalation.


Mr. Menkerios, in conclusion, urged both countries to de-escalate the tense situation and continue to build upon the bilateral dialogue they had started at the highest level last month, as well as the ongoing negotiations under the facilitation of the African Union’s Panel.  Both sides would lose from a confrontation, which would threaten their countries and the entire region.


Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), Hilde Johnson, informed the Council that reports of a new bomb, including in the Yida refugee camp on the border area between Southern Kordofan State, Sudan, and South Sudan and information that multiple bombs had been dropped were still being confirmed.  UNMISS was currently organizing the relocation of those staff members from the area — all United Nations staff had been evacuated — and was working to verify the locations of the reported bombings.


She said the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) had reported fighting on 9 and 10 November in Upper Nile State between SPLA and rebel militias at South Kuek and Gabat, and UNMISS had been requested to assist SPLA with evacuation of casualties and wounded.  The SPLA had also expected more attacks in the Upper Nile area, motivated by Khartoum’s desire “to take the oil fields”, she said.  President Salva Kiir of South Sudan had also claimed that South Sudan’s former civil war enemy was planning to “capture the oil fields”.


Calling on Sudan to desist from further military activity north and south of the border and to avoid unnecessary escalation, David Choat, South Sudan’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, told the Council the Sudanese Armed Forces yesterday had indeed bombed Yida refugee camp, killing 12, had attacked SPLA at Keuk 8 November, and had also bombed Gussa, leaving seven dead.


The ongoing failure to implement the Comprehensive Peace Agreement provisions on Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile States was one of the main causes of the current situation, he said, calling on the Council to take up the issue of humanitarian access to the areas with urgency.  Deeply concerned about the situation, he said South Sudan remained committed to the full implementation of related peace agreement provisions and to holding popular consultations.


Sudan, said its Ambassador to the United Nations, Daffa-All Elhag Ali Osman, had already provided the Council with many documents on the situation in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile States, he said, reaffirming that the situation in the Blue Nile was “absolutely stable”.  He did not anticipate or expect that the Sudanese Armed Forces would need to take military action and added that there had been no bombing in the refugee camps along the borders.  With half-truths spreading, he said, the Council should not base its decisions on false information.


His Government, he said, had underscored its commitment to a political settlement to the conflict and was also committed to finding a peaceful solution to issues with South Sudan.  He noted that President Omer al-Bashir had visited South Sudan shortly after its independence to assure the new Government of Sudan’s commitment to resolving all currently pending issues.


The meeting began at 10:35 a.m. and ended at 11:24 a.m.


Briefings


Briefing the Council on observations from his first visit to Sudan and South Sudan 30 October to 6 November, HERVÉ LADSOUS, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, warned that the simultaneous annual migration of the Misseriya nomadic community and the return of internally displaced persons could erupt in violence given the presence of the Sudanese Armed Forces in Abyei.  While the Sudanese Government had guaranteed a peaceful migration, signs showed that officials in the South would not allow it.  Deeply concerned to see the destruction of property in the aftermath of the May takeover of Abyei by Sudanese Armed Forces, he was nevertheless impressed by the United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA), which was well deployed and making progress in reconstruction and mine clearance.


Turning to the Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile areas, he said tensions persisted between the Governments of Sudan and South Sudan and he had urged both sides to use negotiations and make compromises to resolve problems, with the only course of action being a recommitment to a peaceful, negotiated settlement.  However, recent reports from the United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS) of bombings in highly populated border areas had exacerbated tensions.  The Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) reported to the media today a cross-border attack by the Sudanese Armed Forces.  The United Nations Mission was verifying those reports and evaluating additional humanitarian needs in the affected areas.  Both sides had accused each other of supporting insurgent groups.


“The situation in Sudan and South Sudan is at a difficult juncture, with a very low trust between the countries, heightened rhetoric, and mutual accusations,” he said.  “In this environment, neither country is making sufficient progress toward building a strong, mutually beneficial relationship.”


While neither side seemed ready to return to war, there was a concerning pattern of escalation and destabilization that could lead to a large-scale confrontation, putting more civilians at risk, he said.  It was “absolutely imperative” that both Governments take steps to de-escalate the situation, ensure civilian lives were protected and resume peaceful dialogue.


Meeting with interlocutors to discuss the situation in Darfur, he said he had been struck by the different perceptions of various stakeholders.  While there had been progress, real challenges continued to cause deep concerns.  While the security situation had improved, several areas presented challenges, including that new displacements had occurred with tens of thousands of internally displaced persons living in camps, armed movements remaining outside the peace process, and widespread banditry impeding civilian life.  More needed to be done to address impunity, and renewed hostilities remained a real threat.


Last month, the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) was attacked twice, killing four peacekeepers, he said.  While the Government had assured its full cooperation, he was deeply concerned about the need for further cooperation in creating a secure environment and bringing those responsible for the attack to justice.


The preparation of the road map for peace in Darfur was an opportunity to bring the international community together, he said.  UNAMID and the United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations, with partners, including the African Union and special envoys, were working together closely to prepare the road map.   Efforts would also be made to develop a common assessment of the situation on the ground and to strengthen coordination mechanisms.  He hoped those exercises would help to establish a more coordinated international approach in support of the peace process, he concluded.


Mr. Ladsous went on to read a briefing by Haile Menkerios, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Sudan and South Sudan, who said he had returned from several weeks of consultations with the Governments of the Sudan and South Sudan and with the African Union High-Level Implementation Panel.  To date, a number of Comprehensive Peace Agreement benchmarks remained unresolved and a major source of tension between Sudan and South Sudan, including the resolution of the final status of Abyei, the holding of popular consultations in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile States, border demarcation and oil revenue sharing.  The eruption of fighting in Southern Kordofan, as well as internal strife in South Sudan and delays to demilitarize the common border zone, had, among other things, exacerbated the tensions.


In Abyei, he said, the overall dynamics had not significantly changed since 20 June, despite the timely deployment of the United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA).  The continued presence of troops from both sides in the Abyei area constituted a major obstacle to enforcement of the 20 June Interim Agreement and the implementation of UNISFA’s mandate.


He said the African Union Implementation Panel had recently tabled a compromise proposal to resolve remaining differences between the parties on the establishment of the Abyei area administration institutions.  The Government of Sudan had responded favourably to that proposal.  The African Union mediation was still awaiting the official response of the Government of South Sudan.


The border region remained an area of heightened tensions, owing to, among other factors, the military build-ups by both countries, accusations of support to the respective insurgencies by both Governments and remaining disputes over border demarcation, he said.  The two countries must be strongly advised to do everything possible to address their differences, including among their internal opponents, through political means.  They should also be strongly urged to refrain from any encouragement or assistance to each other’s insurgent groups to wage war.


He said that establishment of the agreed joint border monitoring mechanism, including a 20-kilometre-wide demilitarized border zone, could help address existing tensions.  The African Union mediation had submitted to the parties an operational map proposing a “temporary redeployment line” to resolve the deadlock, which was now being assessed by both Governments.  If discussions resulted in a mutually agreed zone, the Council might consider the expansion of UNISFA’s mandate to include support for the border monitoring mechanism.


As military confrontations were still ongoing between the Sudanese Armed Forces and the Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM)-North in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile States, it was increasingly clear that the Government of the Sudan and the SPLM-North were no longer committed to the 28 June framework agreement.  If the conflict continued in the two areas, there was a high risk of the fighting leading to localized confrontations between the two countries.


He said the Sudan was currently affected by the negative economic impact resulting from the separation of the South.  Agreement on oil revenue sharing and transitional financial arrangements with South Sudan was thus the priority of the Sudanese Government.  Both parties had now submitted proposals to the African Union High-Level Implementation Panel.


In conclusion, he said Sudan and South Sudan were engaged, on the one hand, in negotiations under the auspices of the African Union’s Panel, but on the other hand, in a pattern of escalating mistrust and tension, which was of great concern for the future of peace and security between and within the two countries.  The Council should encourage the negotiations and warn against escalation.  He urged both countries to de-escalate the tense situation and continue to build upon the bilateral dialogue they had started at the highest level last month, as well as the ongoing negotiations under the facilitation of the African Union’s Panel.  Both would lose from a confrontation, which would not only threaten their respective populations, but the entire region.


HILDE JOHNSON, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan, said that on 6 November, the Mission had visited New Guffa in Blue Nile State in response to SPLA-reported bombings on 2 September and 26 October, and had assessed the situation as calm.  However, two days later, the SPLA had reported Sudanese Armed Forces aerial bombings of New Guffa and Yafta in Maban County at around 1600 hours.  The SPLA and the Maban County Commissioner had reported that the bombing had killed one child and seven SPLA soldiers and injured six SPLA soldiers and seven civilians, including four women.  The National Security Service and the SPLA in Jubal had also reported the bombing of the New Guffa area, as had two non-governmental organizations present in the area.


She said that this morning, UNMISS had received a report from a local authority that new bombs had been dropped on Guffa.  That had not been confirmed from other sources, and the Mission was trying to verify that information.  Reports indicated that people were moving away from Guffa towards Bunj, the country’s capital.  Humanitarian assessments and inter-agency teams were being sent to Bunj now.


Reports had been received yesterday that between 1430 and 1500 hours, Sudanese Armed Forces had bombed the Yida refugee camp on the border between Southern Kordofan, Sudan, and South Sudan.  Information that multiple bombs had been dropped was still being confirmed.  Although no casualties had been reported, many remained unaccounted for.  One bomb reportedly landed on the airstrip.  An UNMISS Mi-26 had just left Yida moments before the bombing started.  An UNMISS Mi-8 helicopter was still on the ground.  The helicopter had not been damaged and was being used to evacuate some United Nations agency and staff of international non-governmental organizations.  UNMISS was currently organizing the relocation of those staff members from the area — all United Nations staff had been evacuated — and was working to verify the locations of the reported bombings.


She said the SPLA had reported fighting on 9 and 10 November in Upper Nile State between SPLA and rebel militias at South Kuek and Gabat.  UNMISS had been requested to assist SPLA with evacuation of casualties and wounded.  The SPLA expected more attacks in the Upper Nile area, motivated by Khartoum’s desire “to take the oil fields”.  President Salva Kiir of South Sudan had also claimed that South Sudan’s former civil war enemy was planning to “capture the oil fields”.


Statements


DAFFA-ALLA ELHAG ALI OSMAN ( Sudan) said his Government had already underscored its commitment to a political settlement to the conflict and was committed to finding a peaceful solution to issues with South Sudan.  President Omer al-Bashir had visited South Sudan shortly after its independence to assure the new Government of Sudan’s commitment to resolving all outstanding issues.


However, there were two sides to every coin, he said.  There had not been sufficient enthusiasm from South Sudan’s Government and, in that context, no individual in the Security Council had called upon South Sudan to concentrate its efforts in that area.


Turning to Mr. Ladsous’ briefing, he reiterated his commitment to cooperating with the United Nations, including the Security Council, the Secretariat and non-governmental organizations.  As he had supervised Mr. Ladsous’ visit to his country, he was concerned about comments on Southern Kordofan and the Blue Nile areas.  The fourth battalion of the SPLA was fighting there, using tanks delivered when UNMISS was in the area.  That showed knowledge of and support for troops in the region, he said.


Thanking Ms. Johnson for her efforts, he said time had changed her attitude.  As she had said that bombings had been carried out on border areas against South Sudan, he said he would have preferred more impartiality from her.


Again referring to Mr. Ladsous’ briefing on Abyei, Mr. Osman said Sudan had always demonstrated its commitment to negotiations, as Thabo Mbeki could confirm.  Sudan had provided the Council with many documents on the situation in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile areas.  He reaffirmed that the situation in the Blue Nile was “absolutely stable”.  He did not anticipate or expect that the Sudanese Armed Forces would need to take military action.  In addition, there had been no bombing in the refugee camps along the borders, with truths and half-truths spreading.  The Council should not base its decisions on false information, he concluded.


DAVID CHOAT ( South Sudan) said the Sudanese Armed Forces yesterday had bombed Yida refugee camp, killing 12 people.  In addition, the Forces had attacked positions of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) in Kuek, Upper Nile State, on 8 November and had bombed Gussa there, killing seven people, including two women and one child.  He called on Sudan to desist from further military activity both north and south of the border and to avoid unnecessary escalation.


Deeply concerned about the situation in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile States, especially about the impact of the ongoing violence on the civilian populations in those areas, he said South Sudan remained committed to the full implementation of the provisions of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement relating to the two areas, not least the holding of the popular consultations.  It was the ongoing failure to implement the Comprehensive Peace Agreement provisions with respect to the two areas that was one of the main causes of the current situation.  He called on the Council to take up the issue of humanitarian access to the two areas with urgency.


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