Security Council: Forces must withdraw from Abyei

23 May 2011

Security Council: Forces must withdraw from Abyei

22 May 2011 - Members of the UN Security Council today called on the Sudanese government during a four-day visit to the country to halt its military operations and withdraw immediately from the Abyei area.

"Members of the Security Council condemn the escalatory military operations being undertaken by the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF), which have taken control of the area in and around Abyei town," the 15-member world body said in a statement read out at a Khartoum press briefing by French Ambassador Gerard Araud.

The council further demanded the "immediate withdrawal of all military elements from Abyei and the full implementation of the Kadugli Agreement".

Council members also deplored the unilateral dissolution of the Abyei administration, calling for it to be reestablished by mutual agreement without delay. Underscoring the parties' responsibility to protect civilians, they also strongly condemned recent shelling of the UN compound in Abyei.

The council also condemned the attack against an UNMIS convoy escorting SAF elements of Joint Integrated Units on 19 May in Abyei. "The attack was not only a serious breach of agreements between the parties, but also a criminal act against a United Nations mission and its personnel," the statement said.

Earlier in the day, the council had been scheduled to speak with Sudanese Vice-President Ali Osman Taha and Foreign Minister Ali Karti, but the meetings were canceled.

"Our council takes the view ... that this was an unfortunate and regrettable opportunity missed by the Government of Sudan to share with the Security Council its perspective on what is clearly a very worrying crisis that has evolved," said US Ambassador Susan Rice.

She noted that the council had a variety of potential "tools" at its disposal in such a crisis, including those of pressure and peacekeeping. "But it is urgent for the parties to do what is in their best interest. Ultimately there will need to be security arrangements to be agreed upon and then implemented. It's the lack of implementation that has been so problematic of late."

To a question on whether conflict in Abyei could affect southern independence, Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin replied, "Sometimes I think there is a certain misperception that something may happen which will derail independence of the south. Whatever happens, come July 9 ... Southern Sudan will become independent on that day."

Ms. Rice said the Council also regretted that it had had no opportunity to hear the government's view on a successor mission to UNMIS after 9 July. "We'll want to see and hear for ourselves to determine according to our responsibilities as Security Council on what ought to be the follow on presence."

The council also met with Thabo Mbeki, former South African president and chairman of the African Union (AU) High-Level Implementation Panel on Sudan, senior government officials, Joint Special Representative of the UN-African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) Ibrahim Gambari, UNAMID Force Commander Lieut. Gen. Patrick Nyavumba and Joint AU-UN Chief Mediator for Darfur Djibril Bassole.

In addition, it met with members of the Misseriya tribe as well as residents of Mayo Camp for internally displaced persons on the outskirts of Khartoum.

The Council was scheduled to travel to Wau and Juba on 23 May and to depart from Juba for Addis Ababa on 24 May.