Khartoum — The Sudanese foreign minister Ali Karti on Tuesday criticized the African Union Peace and Security Council (AUPSC) for removing a paragraph that gives Khartoum and Juba six weeks to consider a proposal on the disputed border region of Abyei.
Last month, the AUPSC endorsed the proposal drafted by the AU mediation team led by former South African president Thabo Mbeki which calls for holding a referendum in Abyei in October of next year. Only Dinka Ngok and Misseriya tribesmen residing in the area can participate in the exercise which will decide which country it will be part of.
Khartoum insists that the Misseriya herdsmen who spend significant time outside of Abyei should be allowed to participate. Mbeki's initiative excludes this class from taking part in the referendum. If the latter goes as planned it is widely expected that the Dinka Ngok majority in Abyei will vote in favor joining South Sudan.
Karti claimed that the AUPSC decision was altered without Khartoum's knowledge to remove reference to the six weeks period that allows both sides to study the proposal and express their views accordingly.
The Sudanese top diplomat alleged that the move was made behind the mediation's back since the resolution can no longer be edited particularly as Juba has no interest in seeing it changed.
The minister went on to accuse the United States of pressing for having Mbeki's proposal adopted by the AU and subsequently by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). He said that Sudan will address the AUPSC over the draft text alteration on the ground that it violates what the ministers agreed to.
In New York the Sudan permanent mission sent a letter to the UNSC expressing "deepest worries" and "strong rejection" for part of the draft resolution circulated to renew the mandate of UN Interim Security Force in Abyei (UNISFA) for an additional six months.
"Our rejection stems from the fact that the AUPSC has accorded the Government of the Republic of Sudan and the Republic of South Sudan a period of six weeks to agree on the matter and that period has not yet elapsed," said the letter dated November 12 and published by the Inner City Press website.
"In light of this fact any language expressing support or welcoming that decision [by AUSPC] is considered a premeditated attempt to influence the ongoing negotiations between the two states on the issue and aiming to side with the Government of South Sudan".
The omission of the six weeks clause in AUPSC will likely deem Sudan's objection moot and will force Khartoum to directly plea with UNSC members particularly China and Russia to drop any reference to Mbeki's proposal.