|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
6628th Meeting (AM)
International Support Crucial to Ensuring Sudan, South Sudan Fully Implement Pact
on Contested Abyei Region, Top Peacekeeping Official Tells Security Council
Following Briefing, Council Pressed to Set Deadline for Withdrawal of Northern
Troops; Also Warned of ‘Security Vacuum’ Unless UN Interim Force Fully Deployed
Sudan and South Sudan had shown that they could cooperate on matters related to the disputed Abyei border area, but international support was critical to ensure follow-through on commitments by both sides, a top peacekeeping official told the Security Council this morning.
“International engagement towards the implementation of existing commitments is essential in order to build trust and foster a conducive atmosphere for the negotiation on the final status of Abyei,” said Herve Ladsous, newly-appointed Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, as he introduced the Secretary-General’s report on the United Nations Interim Security Force in Abyei (UNISFA), which was authorized two months ago (see background).
In that light, he encouraged the Council to authorize UNISFA’s support for the establishment of a border monitoring mechanism and to engage the parties on the withdrawal of their forces from Abyei to enable returns of displaced persons and ensure a peaceful seasonal migration of Misseriya herders, “in order to prevent a serious deterioration of the situation in the coming months”.
He said that the security and humanitarian situations in the area remained unchanged since June 2011, after fighting drove thousands from their homes. The humanitarian community continued to assist some 110,000 persons in neighbouring Agok and in the state of Warrap in South Sudan. Unfortunately, aid distribution was still hampered by floods and problems with flight authorizations and security.
The Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) were present on the north and south of the Kiir/Bhar Al Arab, he said. Although major military movements had not been observed, the situation remained tense. Landmines also were a concern and had already caused the deaths of four Ethiopian solders. The mission of the High Commissioner of Human Rights, deployed to investigate allegations of abuses related to the hostilities of May 2011, had not yet received authorization to enter Abyei.
He said the deployment of UNISFA was an important success in view of the numerous obstacles it faced, including a lack of fuel and rations, and delays in the issuance of visas, other documents and authorizations for flights and road travel. Today, 1,780 troops were on the ground, and the Mission had taken over a former logistics base of the United Nations Mission in the Sudan (UNMIS). In addition, military observers had taken positions in Abyei, Agok and Diffra, liaison officers had been identified for deployment in Khartoum and Juba, and the Mission had been conducting patrols since 23 August in major towns and principal roads, as well as aerial reconnaissance. Further, preliminary demining activities had begun, as well as preparations for repairing the critical bridge of Banton.
In order to deploy the remaining 900 troops by October, before the migration of the Misseriya herders, Mr. Ladsous said that a consultative mechanism had been put in place between the United Nations and the Governments of Sudan, South Sudan and the troop-contributing country of Ethiopia, to deal with obstacles the Mission faced. Progress had been made on many fronts, including a guarantee on the issuance of visas by the Sudanese Government.
He said that unfortunately, as of today, UNISFA had not observed significant progress on the withdrawal of armed forces from the Abyei Area. According to media reports, a SAF spokesperson had on 30 September stated that Sudanese troops would remain in Abyei until UNISFA was fully deployed. The Government of South Sudan had accused Sudan of retaining its troops in order to prevent the return of the displaced.
He said the lack of progress towards implementation of the 20 June Agreement was of particular concern as the upcoming migration of the Misseriya approached. The migration could become a potential source of serious tensions if armed forces remained in place and the Ngok Dinka were unable to return before the planting season, which had already begun. UNISFA was already being configured to provide support for a peaceful migration and the protection of civilians. The parties, however, must redouble their commitments to withdraw their armed forces, establish the joint administration and allow recovery and reconciliation.
On 30 July, Sudan and South Sudan had signed an agreement recommitting themselves to establishing a Border Monitoring Mechanism in which UNISFA was to play a key role. While an 18 September Joint Political and Security Mechanism meeting had not delivered a formal agreement, the talks had been constructive. He said the Secretary-General had proposed and amendment to UNIFSA’s mandate to incorporate support for the border monitoring mechanism under a Chapter VI mandate. That proposal envisaged a new pillar of 533 personnel to be deployed into four Joint Border Verification and Monitoring Sectors, each comprising of a sector headquarters and up to 10 Joint Border Verification Monitoring Teams, composed of personnel from Sudan, South Sudan and UNISFA, under UNISFA lead.
For UNISFA to deliver such support, he said a number of conditions must be in place. The parties must continue to move forward to formalize the technical arrangements of the border mechanism. UNISFA must have the full support of the Governments of Sudan and South Sudan, including unrestricted freedom of movement by air and land. Given the 2,100 kilometres border and limited road infrastructure, UNISFA would be required additional air assets, including four utility helicopters and two specialized reconnaissance fixed-wing aircraft. He urged the Council to work with the parties to ensure that the conditions for successful implementation of the mandate would be in place.
Following that presentation, Sudan’s representative, Daffa-Alla Elhag Ali Osman, noted that the report stated that the situation remained calm in Abyei and that there was progress in implementing the agreement on the area, which called for negotiation to resolve the residual matters. All those trends indicated the resolve of his Government to settle all pending matters through dialogue.
He said there was strong resolve by his Government as well as the Government of South Sudan to facilitate the second stage of deployment of UNISFA, as shown by the result of talks in New York in September. The request for support for a border mechanism was another positive development, which promised more cooperation in the future between the two brotherly States. He hoped the Council would agree with the recommendations in the report for dedicated support to that mechanism within the currently authorized strength of the Mission, authorized under Chapter VI of the United Nations Charter.
On the withdrawal of forces, he reiterated his statement that SAF would not stay in Abyei ad infinitum. However, he said withdrawal should be organized in conjunction with the deployment of the Ethiopian forces, so as not to create a security vacuum. Additionally, the current rainy season constituted an obstacle to the movement of vehicles, creating delays over which his Government had no control.
On other matters, he said that there was complete commitment to grant visas to all UNISFA personnel and so far they had been granted to all those who had requested them. He also noted the upcoming meeting of the President of South Sudan with his President, which should be taken into consideration when all pending matters were discussed by the Council. On return of displaced persons, he said that the full deployment of UNISFA should facilitate that matter.
David Buom Choat, the representative of South Sudan, said that the Sudanese Armed Forces must withdraw immediately and unconditionally from Abyei. The SPLA had withdrawn from the Abyei area and had redeployed to Warrap State in full compliance with the Addis Ababa Agreement, he affirmed. He requested the Council to set a deadline for the withdrawal for the Sudanese forces and to hold whoever violated the deadline accountable. He was concerned that Sudan had stated that SAF could not withdraw unless the area’s institutions were established. However, in no agreement between the Parties was such withdrawal conditional upon the establishment of those institutions, he said.
The meeting began at 10:11 a.m. and ended at 10:45 a.m., at which time Council members were invited into consultations on the Abyei situation.
As it met this morning, the Security Council had before it the Report of the Secretary-General on the situation in Abyei (document S/2011/603) which describes developments in the disputed border region between Sudan and South Sudan two months after the authorization of the Council of the United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA). The report states that almost 1,800 troops were already on the ground and had commenced operations in support of security agreements between the Government of Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM).
According to the report, the security situation in Abyei remained relatively calm during the reporting period, following the displacement of a large majority of inhabitants before UNISFA’s deployment. However, heavy rains impaired UNISFA movement by road and, as of 22 September, the Sudanese Armed Forces had not yet removed their elements from the area north of the Kiir/Bahr el-Arab River, including Abyei town. The Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) had not yet withdrawn from the area south of the river.
The Secretary-General says that it is incumbent upon the two parties to expedite the withdrawal of all armed forces out of the area and create conditions that would enable the Mission to fully deploy and allow the displaced population to return. He warns that the upcoming southward migration of the Misseriya nomads through the area held the potential for serious conflict if the Ngok Dinka population is unable to return before the end of the planting season, which has already begun. UNISFA will be critical in mitigating such tensions.
In addition to the security matters under the mandate of UNISFA, the Secretary-General says that critical establishment of governance institutions for rule of law, basic services, recovery and reconciliation will require redoubling of efforts by the Sudanese and South Sudanese Governments to determine the chairmanship of the Abyei Administration, as well as the complete dismantling of the Administration currently operating in Agok. Once established, the new Administration must take rapid steps to establish the Abyei Police Service and provide for the needs of returning displaced persons. He called upon the parties to respect the rights of the population.
Reiterating that the United Nations role in Abyei can only be temporary, the Secretary-General called on both Governments to urgently move forward in their efforts to arrive at a lasting resolution of the status issue. Welcoming their recent agreement on a border-monitoring mechanism, he supported a role for UNISFA in that mechanism, as requested by both Governments, as part of efforts to build trust and stable relations while other outstanding issues, such as the demarcation of the border, oil revenues, debt and citizenship are being negotiated. He therefore recommends that the Security Council amend the mandate of UNISFA to include the border monitoring tasks.
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