Interactive Dialogue on Sudan/South Sudan
Tomorrow morning (27 March) the Security Council is scheduled to hold an interactive dialogue on Sudan and South Sudan with Thabo Mbeki, the chair of the AU High-Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP) and primary mediator in the negotiations between Sudan and South Sudan. Abdulsalami AlhajiAbubakar, also a member of the AUHIP, will also be present, although it seems that Mbeki will be the main briefer. (The interactive dialogue format is being used because Mbeki and Abubakar are not UN officials). Haile Menkerios, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Sudan and South Sudan, and a high-level official from the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) will also be present.
Council members have found Mbeki’s briefings on the Sudan-South Sudan negotiations very helpful in the past. As a result, several of them have been keen to hear from him for several months, as he has not briefed Council members since 9 August 2012. (Mbeki had last been expected to brief the Council in November via videoconference, but cancelled on short notice.)
Council members are likely to be interested in Mbeki’s insights on the progress that Sudan and South Sudan have made in implementing the agreements that they signed on 8 and 12 March in Addis Ababa. (These agreements provide a timeline for the parties to implement arrangements related to security, the administration of Abyei, nationality issues, oil production, trade and other matters.) While Council members are encouraged by the signing of these agreements, they emphasise the importance of implementation, recognising that the parties have a record of non-implementation of prior agreements. In this sense, recent reports that the countries have begun to withdraw their troops from the Safe Demilitarised Border Zone (SDBZ) is a positive sign.
Two of the more intractable issues that may be discussed tomorrow are the final status of Abyei and the fighting and related humanitarian crisis in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states in Sudan. There will likely be interest in getting Mbeki’s views on possible options for compelling Sudan and South Sudan to redouble efforts to address the final status of Abyei. On South Kordofan and Blue Nile, Council members may be looking for information on when direct talks might be scheduled between Sudan and the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement – North (SPLM-N), as well as what issues might be on the agenda for these talks. (Efforts to convene the parties in early March were unsuccessful; however, there may be a greater potential for such talks to occur, given that on 20 March Sudan expressed a willingness to meet directly with the SPLM-N.)
Some Council members may have questions about the technical aspects of the UN Interim Security Force in Abyei (UNISFA) efforts to support the Joint Border Verification and Monitoring Mechanism (JBVMM) along the Sudan-South Sudan border. (In the Council’s most recent consultations on Sudan/South Sudan on 8 March, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Hervé Ladsous, said that UNISFA would need more troops to support the JBVMM.) It is likely that technical questions related to UNISFA’s mandate will be addressed by the DPKO representative attending the meeting.
While the Council’s deliberations on Sudan-South Sudan have generally been difficult, they have been particularly divisive in recent months. Efforts by the Council to negotiate a presidential statement on Sudan-South Sudan issues since mid-February have not been successful. (Some members, particularly the US, have been highly critical of Sudan, holding it primarily responsible for its poor relations with South Sudan. Russia and others have advocated for what they consider a more balanced approach.) It appears that Mbeki may be able to offer insights that can serve as a basis for more constructive dialogue among Council members on elements for a potential statement.