22 September 2010

Sudan: Clinton Tells Official U.S. Expectations for Referenda

Washington — In her meetings with Sudanese Vice President Ali Osman Taha, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton conveyed what the United States expects of Sudan in preparation for the January 2011 referenda in Southern Sudan and Abyei and reaffirmed the Obama administration's commitment to the full implementation of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA).

Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs Philip J. Crowley told reporters in New York September 21 that Clinton had specifically discussed the need to support the Electoral Commission, which is in charge of the two referenda that will determine whether the two Sudanese regions will gain their independence. There is a need to ensure that ballots are available and voter registration is moving forward, and that other "key ingredients to have a credible referendum" are in place, Crowley said.

Clinton also "affirmed the U.S. commitment to full implementation of the CPA and reiterated that we need to see decisive action to ensure ... peaceful, on-time referenda ... in support of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement," he said.

According to Crowley, Taha reiterated the Sudanese government's commitment to the CPA, and "there was an agreement that there's no time to waste; there's a lot to be done."

Crowley said the Obama administration expects Sudanese from both the northern and southern regions to "take very specific steps [and] cooperate" in the remaining days before the January 9, 2011, vote.

The secretary "made clear" to Taha that "the door to improved relations" between Sudan and the United States "will open depending on Khartoum's cooperation and full implementation of the CPA."

U.S. Special Envoy to Sudan Scott Gration recently visited both the southern city of Juba and Khartoum and outlined potential incentives to the Sudanese government in return for its full implementation of the CPA, as well as a pathway that could lead to the normalization of relations between the United States and Sudan.

Crowley noted that "Sudan is among the most heavily sanctioned countries in the world already."

"I think that our focus right now is to demonstrate to Khartoum if you do what is expected of you under the CPA, and then depending on the choices made by the people of Abyei and the people of South Sudan, if you work constructively in the post-referendum period, then there are clear opportunities available to you," he said.

"By the same token, if they do not do what we expect them to do -- and we're setting an appropriately high bar in terms of what Khartoum and Juba need to do -- then there will be consequences, and those include a mix of carrots and sticks," Crowley said.

He also said Clinton and Taha discussed the situation in Darfur "and what needs to be done to resolve the conflict there."

According to a September 21 statement issued by Clinton, U.K. Foreign Secretary William Hague and Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre, letters were sent on September 17 to both Taha and his southern Sudanese counterpart, Salva Kiir, that welcomed "recent progress" on the vote preparations but urged "swift action to ensure that peaceful referenda take place on time, in a manner consistent with the will of the people of Southern Sudan and Abyei."

With much remaining to be done before the referenda, work "must be accelerated to make up for lost time," the three foreign ministers said.

"We have highlighted to the parties that it is their responsibility to ensure that the [Electoral] Commission moves quickly to take critical decisions on further preparations, including most immediately: finalizing an operational plan and budget; agreeing on voter registration criteria and procedures; and hiring and training of registration workers, among other things," the three said in the statement.

On September 24, President Obama will take part in a meeting on Sudan at the United Nations and will "send a very forceful message at a critical, make-or-break time" for the country in his remarks, according to Samantha Power, who is director of multilateral relations at the National Security Council.

Power told reporters September 20 that Obama will be delivering "his own personal message to the parties" to the CPA, "and these will be quite substantial remarks on his vision for how to go forward" in Sudan.

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