What's In Blue

Posted Mon 16 Apr 2012

Council Meeting on Sudan/South Sudan

Tomorrow morning (17 April) at 11.30am, Council members are expecting to hold a meeting with Haile Menkerios, the UN Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan, and Thabo Mbeki, head of the African Union High-Level Implementation Panel, on the deteriorating situation in Sudan and South Sudan. (Mbeki will likely participate via video-conference.) At press time, the format of the meeting had yet to be determined

Mbeki and Menkerios are likely to address their interactions with Sudanese and South Sudanese officials in light of the recent escalation of violence between the two countries. (This has been marked by repeated skirmishes along their border and the seizure of the disputed oil producing area of Heglig by South Sudan on 11 April.) South Sudan has said that it occupied Heglig after rebuffing an attack by Sudan from the area, while Sudan has called the occupation an act of aggression. (In July 2009, the Permanent Court of Arbitration, in defining the borders of the Abyei region, which is claimed by both Sudan and South Sudan, ruled that Heglig is east of Abyei. However, it did not make a determination regarding where Heglig is located vis-à-vis the border separating Sudan and South Sudan, which has yet to be demarcated.)

The occupation of Heglig by South Sudan and the bombings by Sudanese Armed Forces of territory in South Sudan have received international condemnation during the past week from several quarters, including the Council, the AU and the EU. In a presidential statement that the Council issued on 12 April, it demanded: the withdrawal of South Sudanese forces from Heglig; an end to Sudan’s bombings of South Sudan; an end to cross-border violence by the two countries; and an end to both countries’ support for proxy forces on the other side of the border.

In a letter to the Council on 14 April, South Sudan said that it would withdraw from Heglig “if an internationally-monitored mechanism is put in place to guarantee that the area cannot be used to launch further attacks against South Sudan.” In the same letter, it also urged the Council to consider deploying a “neutral” force to the area until its final status could be settled. Sudan has vowed to retake Heglig.

Council members seem particularly concerned by the heightened violence and aggressive rhetoric exhibited by the parties over the past week. Given the gravity of the situation, there has been some discussion among Council members about pursuing a resolution addressing the violence. However, it seems that many Council members have expressed interest in first hearing from Mbeki and Menkerios before moving forward with negotiations on a potential resolution.

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