Sudan Reaffirms Commitment to Cooperation with UNISFA, as South Sudan Reiterates Continuing Engagement with Neighbour
Briefing the Security Council on the situation between Sudan and South Sudan today, a senior peacekeeping official recommended that it extend the mandate of the United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) for another six months.
Alexander Zuev, Assistant Secretary‑General for Rule of Law and Security Institutions, told the Council there were four patterns to dispute over the Abyei Area: the conflict between the Ngok Dinka and Misseriya ethnic groups over grazing land and water; criminality in and around the Amiet Common Market; violence associated with petty crime; and the presence of armed groups. Whereas UNISFA operations continued to enhance peace and stability in the Abyei Area, intercommunal tensions persisted in the absence of progress on the implementation of the 20 June 2011 Agreement between the Governments of Sudan and South Sudan, he said.
The Abyei Joint Oversight Committee had not convened in the last week of July, as agreed, he continued. A meeting on 16 August in Addis Ababa had been postponed after South Sudan cited the need to await the outcome of the expected meeting between the Presidents of South Sudan and Sudan. However, a date for that meeting was still to be announced.
He went on to note that, nearly six years after the 2011 Agreement established the Joint Border Verification and Monitoring Mechanism, both Sudan and South Sudan, as well as the African Union, viewed that entity as essential. The Joint Political and Security Mechanism would meet following the anticipated meeting of the Presidents, he said, adding that the Joint Security Committee had not taken place because each side had accused the other of supporting rebel movements. The African Union High‑level Implementation Panel had now called an extraordinary session of the Joint Political and Security Mechanism on 1 November.
Expressing regret that border‑demarcation discussions had not resumed, he noted, however, that the parties had participated in an initial joint aerial reconnaissance mission in September, intended to identify temporary observation sites. There had also been considerable progress on full movement for the operations of the Joint Border Verification and Monitoring Mechanism.
He said UNISFA had clearly played a stabilizing role in Abyei, and urged both Governments to consolidate the local gains it had won by engaging in discussions to resolve the deadlock over establishing temporary arrangements that should lead to the determination of Abyei’s final status.
In a separate briefing, Nicholas Haysom, the Secretary‑General’s Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan, who said the internal conflicts in those countries, coupled with mistrust between them, continued to impede the full implementation of agreements and the normalization of bilateral relations. He added that he had stressed to the parties that agreements on security arrangements and border issues could not be implemented without regular meetings of the Joint Political and Security Mechanism.
He said the Governments of both parties continued to demonstrate sustained bilateral cooperation in the oil sector, and in September, they had agreed to boost border trade. The meeting of the Joint Political and Security Mechanism, expected at the end of October, was intended to expedite the establishment of the first crossing points. Noting that Sudan continued to facilitate the provision of humanitarian aid to South Sudan, he said he would encourage both Governments to build on their cooperation on oil and their interest in enhancing their economic and commercial cooperation to implement the Agreements on Security Arrangements and Border Issues.
Thanks to UNISFA’s sustained efforts, the risk of Sudan and South Sudan relapsing into conflict was low and the mission’s stabilizing role should inform any decision the international community might be considering regarding Abyei and the Joint Border Verification and Monitoring Mechanism, he said. UNISFA’s enabling role was crucial for any future progress towards the implementation of transitional agreements and the resumption of talks on Abyei’s final status.
Turning to the conflict in South Kordofan and Blue Nile, he said the Roadmap Agreement brokered by the African Union High Implementation Panel in 2017 could, if fully implemented, lay the ground for lasting peace in Sudan through negotiations and national political dialogue. He noted that delivery of humanitarian aid to territories under the control of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement‑North (SPLM‑N) remained contentious. The Government of Sudan had reiterated its readiness to implement the United States proposal on humanitarian access, but the SPLM‑N’s new leadership insisted that delivery of some percentage of the humanitarian assistance would go directly to areas under its control. He urged both sides in the Two Areas to resume talks on the basis of the United States proposal on humanitarian assistance, under the auspices of the African Union High Implementation Panel.
Omer Dahab Fadl Mohamed (Sudan) reaffirmed his Government’s commitment to cooperation with UNISFA. Confirming the stability achieved in the region, he attributed it both to the work of the Interim Force and Government initiatives. He called on the Government of South Sudan to increase cooperation in that regard and implement the Abyei institutions agreed in 2011 in order for lasting peace to take hold. All points agreed must be fulfilled, in particular, the joint security and administrative arrangements, in order to determine the Abyei Area’s final status, as agreed in 2004, in a “win‑win” formula.
Unfortunately, there was a lack of enthusiasm for putting all provisions of the agreements in place, with the exception of the oil‑sharing agreement, he said, expressing hope that upcoming events would help to move all elements of the Abyei agreements forward. Meanwhile, he called for the Joint Border Verification and Monitoring Mechanism to continue so that the gains won would not be lost.
Akuei Bona Malwal (South Sudan) reiterated his Government’s commitment to engaging Sudan in renewed efforts towards an agreed solution, pointing out that his country’s Government had granted the Joint Border Verification and Monitoring Mechanism full freedom of movement. He said both parties had accepted UNISFA’s proposal to establish four temporary observation sites within the Safe Demilitarized Border Zone, and had sent their respective monitors to start joint reconnaissance missions with the Force to identify those sites. However, such activities could not realistically replace the final resolution of the Abyei issue, he said, noting that the call to establish the Abyei Interim Administrative structures had been superseded by events. Rather, the Government of South Sudan called for final settlement of the matter on the basis of the African Union High Implementation Panel proposal of 21 September 2013.
Luis Bermúdez (Uruguay) said that, since UNISFA was hamstrung by the lack of willingness on the part of both sides to resolve the conflict, it was their primary responsibility to implement the 2011 agreements. The last mandate extension for UNISFA had been a conditional one because the Council stipulated in resolution 2352 (2017) that it would be the final extension unless both sides demonstrated that the Mechanisms established in the 2011 Agreement could function. The future of UNISFA was entirely in the hands of the Governments of Sudan and South Sudan, he emphasized.
Sacha Sergio Llorentty Solíz (Bolivia) said that although the security situation was stable, it remained fragile. The level of tension in the Amier Common Market, the heart of the region, should be reduced, he said, pointing out that the humanitarian situation had become urgent because of refugees from South Sudan. There was a need to support institution building in order to provide services to the population, he said, pointing out that UNISFA had no role in that regard.
The meeting began at 3:44 p.m. and ended at 4:36 p.m.