What's In Blue

Posted Fri 15 Jun 2012

Consultations on Abyei

On Monday morning (18 June) Council members are scheduled to hold consultations on the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) – the mission in the disputed border area between Sudan and South Sudan. UNISFA Force Commander, Lieutenant General Tadesse Werede Tesfay of Ethiopia, who will be in New York next week with other UN force commanders, is expected to brief. (Tesfay had been unable to participate in previous UNISFA consultations because of lack of videoconference facilities in Abyei, and some Council members have been keen to hear his perspective on events on the ground.)

Although no Council outcome specifically on Abyei is anticipated on Monday, it seems that Council members may issue a press statement on broader Sudan/South Sudan issues early next week. (A draft text, which welcomes the recent resumption of negotiations between Sudan and South Sudan—but highlights several priorities ahead—was shared with all Council members this afternoon and has been put under silence until noon on Monday.)

One topic of discussion during the consultations on Monday will be the steps that Sudan and South Sudan need to take before the Joint Border Verification and Monitoring Mechanism can be established. (Related to this are the technical requirements needed for UNISFA to conduct its mandated role in support of the mechanism.) It seems that the draft press statement now under silence emphasises the need for this border security mechanism to be established without further delay.

One key issue that is likely to be discussed is the map that the AU High Level Implementation Panel proposed in November 2011 as the basis for the establishment of the Joint Border Verification and Monitoring Mechanism and the Safe Demilitarised Border Zone. Both Sudan and South Sudan have expressed uneasiness about this map, although South Sudan now appears willing to accept it. It seems that the parties are concerned that the map could ultimately prejudice the final status of border demarcation, although the Council explicitly indicated that this would not be the case in resolution 2046 and will likely reaffirm that position in its press statement.

Given that the Council has already endorsed the AU map, some Council members believe that there is no room for negotiation on the issue. From a practical standpoint, some believe that the map should be the basis of negotiations—even if the parties have disagreements over some of its details—otherwise progress on the demilitarised zone and border monitoring mechanism is unlikely.

Council members will also be keen to learn whether Sudan and South Sudan have deployed monitors to a temporary base in Assosa, Ethiopia, as agreed during the latest round of negotiations in Addis Ababa (29 May to 7 June). (The deployment of monitors is in preparation for the establishment of the border monitoring mechanism and UNISFA is ready to deploy troops in support of the mechanism.)

Another important topic that may be discussed during Monday’s consultations is the presence of Sudanese police in Abyei. During the 14 June consultations on Sudan/South Sudan, the Council was informed that approximately 100-130 lightly armed Sudanese police remained in the Abyei region, defending oil facilities. While these police do not appear to pose challenges to the security situation in the region, several Council members consider their presence a violation of resolution 2046, which stipulated that all security forces from Sudan and South Sudan be withdrawn from the Abyei region. It seems that the draft press release addresses the issue and calls on Sudan to redeploy its “oil police” in the area, although it acknowledges that Khartoum has withdrawn its armed forces.

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