UN envoy says Sudan and South Sudan withdrawing troops from demilitarized zone

Oil pipeline at the Foluge oil field in South Sudan. Photo: UN video

22 March 2013 – The Governments of Sudan and South Sudan have begun withdrawing their troops from a safe demilitarized border zone, a United Nations envoy said today, as he briefed Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on the latest agreements between the two neighbours.

Earlier this month, the countries signed an agreement concerning the establishment of a safe demilitarized border zone, the deployment of a joint border verification and monitoring mechanism and the activation of agreed security-related mechanisms as of 10 March.

During a meeting today in New York, Haile Menkerios, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan, told Mr. Ban that both Governments had instructed oil companies to begin producing, transporting and exporting oil from South Sudan through Sudan.

A readout of the meeting noted that the Secretary-General commended both Governments for their determination to implement their agreements and reaffirmed the UN’s readiness to assist the parties in this endeavour.

He also expressed his hope that progress in implementation of the 27 September agreements – a key framework for cooperation on security, the common border and economic relations signed last year – will enhance confidence between the parties and pave the way for them to address the few issues that remain outstanding.

Mr. Ban also welcomed the decision by the Government of Sudan and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-North) to meet for direct talks, adding that he hoped the meeting will lead to an immediate cessation of hostilities to allow the safe delivery of humanitarian assistance and create a conducive atmosphere for political discussions to address the root causes of the conflict.

Also today, the UN humanitarian arm expressed concern about the safety and protection of civilians who are affected by violence between Government armed forces and non-State armed groups in Jonglei state in South Sudan.

“Our humanitarian partners report that recent violence has resulted in scores of injured in Jonglei,” the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in its latest situation report on South Sudan.

In the past months, Pibor County has been the site of inter-communal violence and hostilities between the army and non-State armed actors.

“The presence of various armed groups in the area has raised concern of a possible military offensive and humanitarian organisations are stepping up preparedness plans and pre-positioning supplies in Boma and Pibor,” OCHA noted, urging everyone involved in the fighting to respect international humanitarian law.

The report continues that a “still unconfirmed number of civilians from the town of Pibor have gone into the bush along the Keng Keng River and other rivers to seek safety” while others sought refuge around the UN peacekeeping mission (UNMISS).

The villages of Kondako and Longachot remain largely deserted, according to OCHA, and people reportedly “only come out of the bush to collect aid and then return to the bush for safety.”

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) today said it provided food assistance to nearly 13,000 people displaced as a result of the fighting.

“There was an initial distribution of 15-day food rations in February to 2,558 internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Gumuruk, 5,000 displaced people in Pibor and 5,267 who were displaced from Likoungole and are in Pibor,” spokesperson Elisabeth Byrs told journalists in Geneva.

WFP and its partners distributed another round of 30-day rations earlier this month, but were unable to reach Gumuruk due to insecurity.

In Akobo County, where more than 23,000 people are affected by the 8 February fighting in Walgak, authorities have been distributing food aid to part of the affected population.

According to media reports, the people of Walgak were migrating north to the wetlands with cattle when they came under attack by an armed force.

Nearly 13,000 people who fled the region received cereals, pulses and vegetable oils in February and March, Ms. Byrs said.

In addition, the UN agency and partners started distributing food aid to more than 10,600 displaced people who sought refuge in Ulang Country of Upper Nile state as a result of the fighting in Akobo.

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