Juba — The African Union Peace and Security Council (AUPSC) on Wednesday unanimously endorsed an initial proposal prepared by the mediation seeking to settle a conflict over the ownership of Abyei, between South Sudan and Sudan.
The AUHIP proposal calls to hold Abyei's referendum in October 2013 and only the Misseriya residing Abyei can participate in this vote. The text comes in accord with the South Sudanese position but not with the Sudanese one. Khartoum supported the partition of the disputed area.
The Council's approval of the proposal comes a day after the African mediation circulated a new proposal seeking to extend negotiations for a further six weeks, according a South Sudanese official in Addis Ababa.
The purpose of the extension, which was criticised by Juba, was to allow the two parties to "voluntarily" reach a consensus on the remaining outstanding issues including the final status of Abyei.
Luka Biong Deng, a Co-Chair of Abyei Joint Oversight Committee on Wednesday said the Council had endorsed the initial proposal without changes. He commended the Mbeki's team for demonstrating exemplary leadership with courage and commitment to bring peace and stability to the region.
"I am delighted to inform you that the AUPSC has unanimously endorsed the African Union High Level Implementation Panel Proposal on the final status of Abyei area that was presented to our President Salva Kiir and President Bashir on 21st September as final and binding solution," Biong told Sudan Tribune from Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.
The official further said he attended the opening session of the meeting of African Union Peace and Security Council in which South Sudan Minister of Foreign Affairs; Nhial Deng Nhial gave a presentation on the disputed issues, and the humanitarian in South Kordofan and Blue Nile that has affected over 900,000 people.
Luka further added that the representatives of the permanent members of the UN Security Council particularly US, France, UK and EU Special Envoy have made strong statements in support of the 21 September Proposal on the final status of Abyei. They also asked the Council to endorse the Proposal and reassured the meeting that the UN Security Council will equally endorse it.
"China was keen to support any African solution and Russia was not available. Uganda was in support of the 21st Sept proposal on the final status of Abyei," Biong said.
Moscow which seeks to enhance its economic relations with Khartoum, said supporting Abyei's partition.
South Sudan Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Nhial Deng Nhial, in a speech before the Council said that for the sake of peace and regional stability, his government compromised and accepted the decisions of the international community and implemented it, citing the acceptance of the arbitration rule, which reduced the size of Abyei .
Nhial also refuted Sudan's demand to divide the area saying "Sudan's novel contention that Abyei should be partitioned between the two states, would not only amount to a travesty of justice for the Ngok Dinka whose Abyei Homeland is being progressively chipped away by Khartoum, but would also re-open the debate over Abyei, with potentially fatal political consequences for the two states," he stressed, before the closed door meeting which resolved to endorse the AUHIP proposal in its totality.
The new Chairperson of the African Union commission Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma told the 339th ministerial level meeting of the AU's Peace and Security Council (AUPSC) that the "AU will stand by" Sudan and South Sudan while they address their remaining issues.
"The establishment of sustainable and cooperative relations between Sudan and South Sudan requires the final delineation of their common border, a decision on the future status of Abyei Area, as well as the peaceful resolution of internal conflicts within each state," she added.
Khartoum does not yet announce or react to the decision.
UN Security Council is expected to discuss the issue soon.