South Sudan calls for condemnation of Khartoum's actions at UN Security Council

08:19, June 01, 2011      

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Ezekiel Lol Gatkouth, head of government of Southern Sudan mission to the U.S. and the UN, said in the United Nations Tuesday that the government in Khartoum has been attempting to undermine peace through a recent takeover of the contested Sudanese border region of Abyei by northern soldiers.

"We call on the Security Council once again to condemn unreservedly this move by Khartoum to take Abyei by force, and to demand that the SAF (Sudan Armed Forces) withdraw its forces from Abyei immediately and unconditionally," he said.

Gatkouth's statement came as he addressed the UN Security Council during a meeting on Sudan. South Sudan will be officially declared independent on July 9.

Sudan was the site of a long civil war between north and south that ended with the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), signed in 2005. Under the CPA, a referendum was held in January to decide whether or not the south would separate from the north, and resulted in a vote for secession. Another referendum was supposed to be held on the sovereignty of the oil-rich region of Abyei, but was never carried out due to controversy about voter qualifications.

"The recent occupation of Abyei by the Sudan Armed Forces is a most serious violation of the CPA agreement," Gatkouth said. " Khartoum's actions over the last week represent a grave escalation that risks the resumption of armed conflict between the two parties. The Security Council must intervene swiftly and decisively."

On May 21, SAF launched an offensive and took over Abyei after an attack on a SAF convoy on May 19 that was being escorted by the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS).

An agreement signed in Addis Ababa on Tuesday with the support of the African Union (AU) created a demilitarized border zone between north and south in hopes of mitigating tensions, and was signed by representatives from SAF and the southern Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA).

Also on Tuesday, Daffa-Alla Elhag Ali Osman, the permanent representative of Sudan to the UN, told reporters outside the Security Council chambers that Khartoum had legitimate reasons for entering Abyei and that they do not plan on staying permanently.

"We went to Abyei to put the house in order and to stop any violation by the SPLA, creating havoc by the armed forces in Abyei, " he said. "We immediately declared that our presence there is temporary, we are not going to stay indefinitely in Abyei and at the moment we agreed on new political arrangements to include also security arrangements."

Osman also said that referring to Sudan's activities in Abyei as an occupation is a misnomer.

"There are some voices who used to speak about occupation by the Sudanese Armed Forces to Abyei," he explained. "This is illogical because you do not speak about occupation by the national forces. Sudan is still a sovereign country, it is one country, if there is deployment of forces from one place to the other you can speak about the presence of the Sudanese Armed Forces in Abyei but you cannot speak about occupation."

Gatkouth said that the fighting that took place in Abyei has had "serious humanitarian consequences."

"The full impact of the violence in Abyei, including civilian casualties and the number and whereabouts of displaced persons, is not yet known," he said. "We regret that the UN peacekeeping forces, which have a robust mandate to protect civilians in imminent danger, reportedly remained inside their compound during the military attacks by the SAF."

The importance of the UN's assistance in maintaining border security, given the tensions in Abyei continues to be "paramount," said Gatkouth, particularly as South Sudan prepares to become fully independent on July 9.

"Our goal is to see peaceful co-existence between the two neighboring states of Sudan and South Sudan," he said. "Recent events have demonstrated how great a challenge this will be, and that continued third-party support will be critical if it is to be achieved."

He explained that monitoring the border between north and south Sudan will require more troops than the 7,000 that UN Secretary- General Ban Ki-moon has recommended, and also said that he welcomes the work undertaken by the UN to create a mission that will take over for UNMIS in South Sudan.

"Should UNMIS have to be drawn down on 9 July, without an agreed mechanism mandated to monitor and observe the situation in the border areas, it would leave the international community unable to respond effectively to threats to international peace and security in those border areas," Gatkouth said.

Source: Xinhua
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