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Consultations on Abyei, Sudan/South Sudan, and Sudan Sanctions

Tomorrow morning (7 February), Council members are scheduled to hold consultations on three key issues related to Sudan and South Sudan: the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA), Sudan/South Sudan relations, and the 1591 Sudan Sanctions Committee. During the consultations, briefings are anticipated by Edmond Mulet, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping on UNISFA; Haile Menkerios, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy on Sudan and South Sudan on relations between the two countries; and Ambassador María Cristina Perceval (Argentina) as chair of the Sudan Sanctions Committee. At press time, no Council outcome was expected immediately following the consultations, although it seems that some members may be interested in discussing a potential statement building on the 25 January 2013 communiqué of the AU Peace and Security Council (PSC) on Sudan and South Sudan.


Council members remain concerned with the tense security situation in the disputed Abyei region. In this respect, some members may be interested in learning more about the current state of relations between the Ngok-Dinka and Misseriya communities. The 25 January 2013 Secretary-General’s report on the situation in Abyei (S/2013/59) reported that recent violent incidents had occurred between some members of the two groups. It also indicated that leaders from each group had expressed their intention to increase the presence of their respective communities in Abyei, as a result of the AU PSC’s call for a referendum to determine whether Abyei becomes part of Sudan or South Sudan. (The Ngok-Dinka community is generally aligned with South Sudan, while the Misseriya is more supportive of Sudan.)

Some members are also concerned with the lack of progress between Sudan and South Sudan in negotiating the final status of Abyei, and may be interested in learning about the next steps in the parties’ negotiations on this matter. Sudan and South Sudan agreed to conduct a referendum to determine the final status of Abyei in the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement. However, the referendum, which had been scheduled for January 2011, was never conducted because the parties could not agree on voter eligibility. More recently, the PSC has asked the parties to use the 21 September 2012 proposal of the AU High-Level Implementation Panel calling for a referendum as a basis for their negotiations on Abyei’s final status. However, while South Sudan has agreed to this proposal, Sudan has expressed reservations about voter eligibility. While some Council members believe that there is a need for Sudan and South Sudan to adhere to the referendum proposal, other members are more wary of this approach, believing that any solution that is not mutually agreed upon by both parties will not stick over the long term. It seems that until there is consensus among Council members on the basis for negotiations it will be difficult for the Council to collectively put pressure on the parties.

Council members also continue to be concerned about the lack of movement by the parties in establishing interim administrative institutions in Abyei – including the Abyei Legislative Council, the Abyei Area Administration, and the Abyei Police Service – and in implementing the Safe Demilitarised Border Zone (SDBZ) and the Joint Border Verification and Monitoring Mechanism (JBVMM) along their mutual border. (UNISFA has a mandate to support the activities of the JBVMM.) Council members have been disappointed with the lack of progress in addressing these matters effectively but have yet to come up with new suggestions for breaking the impasse.

Sudan/South Sudan

Several Council members are also clearly frustrated with the inability of the parties to address a number of other issues, including implementing the 27 September 2012 agreements on security, oil wealth sharing, and nationalities, among others. (In its 25 January communiqué, the PSC asked the AU High-Level Implementation Panel, which is mediating between the parties, to report on the implementation of these agreements within three months). Council members may thus be interested in the next steps in the negotiation process on implementation of these agreements.

Another issue which may be raised tomorrow is the humanitarian situation in South Kordofan and Blue Nile, two states in southern Sudan where the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N), a rebel group, is fighting the Sudanese Armed Forces. Council members paid some attention to this issue in January. During the Sudan/South Sudan consultations on 8 January, John Ging, director of operations for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, emphasised the severity of the humanitarian crisis in South Kordofan and Blue Nile, and urged the Council to take action to address this challenge. Additionally, a high-level SPLM-N delegation was in New York last month, and met bilaterally in private meetings with several Council members in order to provide their perspective on the humanitarian and political crisis in these two states.

While there seems to be widespread concern in the Council about the humanitarian crisis in these areas, the Council remains divided on how to approach this issue. Some members favour stronger efforts to compel humanitarian access, noting the devastating toll of the fighting on civilians. Others are reluctant to press Sudan too hard, asserting that it is a sovereign state fighting a rebel group.

Sudan Sanctions Committee

While these regular briefings by the chair of the Sudan Sanctions Committee are generally uncontroversial, tomorrow’s meeting may touch on some more difficult issues. Council members, for example, have different views about whether Sudan has been cooperating with the Committee’s Panel of Experts (PoE). (Sudan has provided multi-entry visas to four of the five experts of the PoE, while a fifth expert, the arms expert, has received a single entry visa. However, the finance expert has been denied access to Sudan in spite of having received a visa apparently because of the government’s unhappiness over his previous activities as a member of the PoE of the Somalia/Eritrea Sanctions Committee. It also seems that some members of the PoE have had their movements within Sudan restricted.) As adoption of a resolution renewing the PoE’s mandate is scheduled for 13 February, some Council members may want to discuss the difficulties faced by these experts in carrying out their mandate.

Another issue that may be raised in the meeting is the final report of the PoE, which was circulated to committee members on 24 January. It seems that the report contains allegations of violations of the arms embargo and air assets that some Council members may take issue with.

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