Sudan-South Sudan Consultations and Humanitarian Briefing on Syria
Tomorrow afternoon (20 June), the Security Council is scheduled to hold its twice monthly meeting in consultations on Sudan/South Sudan issues. Hervé Ladsous, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, and Valerie Amos, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, are expected to brief. Ladsous will likely focus his remarks on relations between Sudan and South Sudan, while Amos is expected to brief on her 20-23 May trip to Sudan. In “Any Other Business” Amos is also likely to discuss the humanitarian situation in Syria. No Council outcome is expected from the meeting.
Ladsous is likely to elaborate on the new proposals presented by the AU High-Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP) in an attempt to address the latest tensions in Sudan-South Sudan relations which recently culminated in Sudan’s stated intention to close oil pipelines from South Sudan within 60 days of 9 June. These proposals were outlined in a letter from AUHIP Chair Thabo Mbeki to Presidents Omar al-Bashir of Sudan and Salva Kiir of South Sudan on 9 June. One proposal calls for the establishment of a technical team to make a determination on the centre line of the Safe Demilitarised Border Zone within six weeks of 18 June, or in a time-frame proposed by the technical team. A second is for the AU Commission and the Chair of the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) to make a determination on the facts regarding allegations by both sides of support for rebels in the other country, discuss their findings with the parties and propose next steps by 25 July.
The AUHIP has requested that Sudan and South Sudan accept the proposals and strongly suggested that they not undermine efforts to implement the agreements they have made.
Several Council members have been concerned about Sudan’s threat to shut down oil pipelines from South Sudan, and more broadly, by the lack of constructive engagement between the two countries in recent weeks. As a result, Council members will likely be interested in the level of receptivity of the parties to the proposals. (Media reports state that Sudan has agreed to accept them, and there are indications that South Sudan is amenable as well.)
Council members may also be interested in whether Ladsous has more information on the bombing of an oil pipeline on 12 June running from Diffra in the disputed Abyei region to Heglig, a town along the Sudan-South Sudan border that has also been contested by the parties. Sudan has accused the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) rebels of the attack, an accusation that the JEM has challenged.
Another incident that is likely to be raised in the discussion tomorrow is the shelling of the Joint Border Verification and Monitoring Mechanism (JBVMM) headquarters in Kadugli, South Kordofan state in Sudan, on 14 June, which led to the death of one UN Interim Security Force for Abyei peacekeeper and the wounding of two others. The Council issued a press statement on the same day condemning the attack (SC/11034).
While details are unclear, it appears that the headquarters may have been hit by the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N), which has claimed that it was firing on “military” sites in the area and did not intend to hit the JBVMM headquarters.
Regarding Amos’s20-23 May visit to Sudan, Council members may want to hear about the results of her “essential contact” meeting with President al-Bashir, Minister of Defence Abdel Rahim Hussein and Governor of South Kordofan Ahmed Haroun – all of whom have been indicted by the International Criminal Court. In particular, there is likely to be interest in learning whether there is a possibility of improved humanitarian access to South Kordofan and Blue Nile states. In a statement circulated at the conclusion of her trip, Amos said that she believed that there was greater humanitarian access to parts of these states controlled by the government of Sudan than a year ago, especially in Blue Nile; however, she said that she is “worried about the safety and well-being of civilians in the war-affected areas that are not under government control” in these states.
The humanitarian situation in Darfur is also an ongoing concern to several Council members, and Amos is likely to cover her visit to Darfur in the briefing. She may underscore the importance of maintaining the focus on the humanitarian crisis in Darfur, where she recently noted that “the UN estimates that 300,0000 people have fled fighting […] in the first five months of this year, which is more than the total number of people displaced in the last two years put together.”
It is also expected that Amos will address the humanitarian situation in Syria under “Any Other Business” at the conclusion of the Sudan/South Sudan consultations. Luxembourg requested that Amos brief on Syria on 4 June following the DPA horizon scanning exercise which included briefings on Syria and Lebanon by the Department of Peacekeeping. It seems the initial proposal was for a public briefing but most Council members agreed a short update in consultations would allow for a more frank exchange of views. (In recent months the “Any Other Business” slot which is part of Council consultations, has been used for briefings on Central African Republic, Guinea and Kenya.)
When Amos last briefed the Council on Syria on 18 April, she described the situation as a “humanitarian catastrophe”. In the two months since, the situation has continued to deteriorate with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights recently reporting 93,000 deaths with averages of 5,000 killed each month since July 2012.
Council members will be keen to be given more details about the 7 June launch in Geneva of the largest humanitarian appeal in history of US$4.4 billion, which at press time was only funded at approximately 28 percent. The funds will provide services to 6.8 million people in need within Syria, 4.25 million of which are IDPs, and 1.6 million Syrian refugees. There are projections that the refugee numbers may dramatically increase in 2013 to over 3 million. (One million refugees fled Syria in the first five months of 2013 alone.)
Council members are also likely to be interested in hearing how plans for Amos to visit Syria, and possibly Jordan and Lebanon, in early July are progressing and whether humanitarian access has improved. On 18 April, following Amos’s last briefing, Council members agreed to press elements in which they called on all parties, in particular the Syrian authorities, to cooperate with the UN and relevant humanitarian organizations and deplored obstacles to the provision of humanitarian assistance, including those which are bureaucratic in nature. Some Council members would like to see the Council make a stronger statement on the need for humanitarian access but it is unlikely that there will be any action taken at this point.