What's In Blue

Posted Wed 10 Apr 2013

Consultations on Sudan/South Sudan and Abyei

Tomorrow morning (11 April) the Council is to hold the first of its twice monthly consultations on Sudan/South Sudan. The Council will also consider the Secretary-General’s most recent 90-day report [S/2013/198] on the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA). Edmond Mulet, AssistantSecretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, is expected to brief on both issues and UNISFA’s new head of mission and force commander, General Yohannes Gebremeskel Tesfamariam, will also be present. (The Council has held consultations on Sudan/South Sudan and UNISFA concurrently since October 2012, given that the situation in Abyei and the mandate of UNISFA are directly relevant to Sudan-South Sudan relations.)

Council members will likely want to receive an update on the progress that Sudan and South Sudan have made in fulfilling the agreements of 8 and 12 March, which provide implementation timelines related to security arrangements, oil production, cross-border trade, the administration of Abyei, and other matters. It seems that several members may be interested in hearing what steps the parties have taken in recent weeks to implement the Joint Border Verification and Monitoring Mechanism (JBVMM) along the Sudan-South Sudan border. Since oil is a vital source of income to both countries, especially South Sudan, Council members may also want to learn more about the recent steps that have been taken to resume the production of South Sudanese oil and to transport it through Sudan.

Another issue that is likely to be raised tomorrow is the Secretary-General’s request for an additional 1,126 troops for UNISFA to provide force protection for the JBVMM, outlined in the recent UNISFA report. While most members appear supportive of this request, it seems two members have expressed some concern over this potential expansion largely due to the budget implications of fielding these additional troops.

Council members may also be interested in further information about the agenda for the summit meeting planned for 12 April between Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and South Sudan President Salva Kiir in Juba. When Thabo Mbeki, chair of the AU High Level Implementation Panel, briefed Council members on 27 March, he indicated that the two presidents would try to resolve differences over temporary administrative arrangements in Abyei, including the Abyei Area Council and the Abyei Area Police, during the summit. Council members may inquire whether other issues might also be addressed during the meeting. (Speaking with journalists in Juba on 6 April, South Sudanese spokesman Barnaba Marial said that the two presidents would discuss a broader range of issues than just administrative structures in Abyei, including the Abyei Referendum commission and border demarcation.)

The political and humanitarian crisis in South Kordofan and Blue Nile is also likely to be discussed in the meeting, as it is an ongoing concern of several Council members. During the informal interactive dialogue on 27 March, Mbeki had expressed the hope that Sudan and the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) would engage in direct negotiations in the near future. There may be interest among Council members in learning whether concrete arrangements have been made for the parties to meet. (It seems that a key sticking point is that Sudan and the SPLM-N have different expectations for the substance of the negotiations. Sudan would prefer discussing matters related to the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement, including the never-held popular consultations in South Kordofan and Blue Nile, while the SPLM-N favours negotiations on a broad-based national constitutional review process.)

On 9 April, the Council issued a press statement (SC/10968) condemning the ambush of earlier that day that resulted in the deaths of five peacekeepers and seven civilians in Jonglei state in South Sudan. While South Sudan is not the focus of tomorrow’s discussion, this incident may be raised in the consultations, as there is growing concern among some Council members about the challenging security environment in South Sudan.

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