13 December 2012

Sudan: African Union Holds Decisive Meeting On Abyei

Photo: UN Photo/Tim McKulka
Fleeing conflict (file photo).

Khartoum/Juba — The African Union Peace and Security Council (AUPSC) will hold a meeting Friday to take a crucial decision over the future of the disputed area of Abyei, as a South Sudanese official said Russia supports the continent's proposal.

On 24 October the AUSPC decided to back a proposal over Abyei the mediation had submitted to Khartoum and Juba one month before calling to hold a referendum in the disputed region in October 2013. It also provides that the Ngok Dinka and the Misseriya residing it only can vote.

The African panel led by Thabo Mbeki said the exclusion of the Misseriya nomads come in line with the a decision of the arbitration court which defined the territory of the Ngok Dinka nine chiefdoms in July 2009.

The mediation's proposal also backs the South Sudanese position because the participation of the pastoralists will leads to keep the oil producing area within the Sudan.

The AUPSC is expected to decide on whether it confirms its decision of 24 October and then decide to refer the proposal to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), or to give the two parties more time to tackle the issue.

In its decision of 24 October, the Council gave the parties six weeks to reach a compromise on the basis of the proposal but they did not even consider to hold a meeting.

Khartoum had already rejected the proposal since September and refused it before its approval by the AUPSC.

Sudan and South Sudan toured the African countries member of the AUPSC to convince them to support their position. Khartoum advocated that such decision means a return of war between the two countries while Juba said it will allow to stop "endless talks".

As Washington and different European capitals expressed their support to the position of African proposal, Sudan sought to win the support of the Russian Republic. Sudanese presidential assistant Nafie Ali Nafie said Moscow is in favour of Khartoum's position.

The Sudanese official met with the Russian foreign minister last week while another delegation from South Sudan, including Pagan Amum and Luka Biong was in Moscow at the same time to explain why Russia should support their point of view.

Speaking to Sudan Tribune on Thursday Biong said that the Russia diplomats have expressed willingness to support the African Union's latest proposal to resolve the contention over the key border region of Abyei.

Boing described their visit as "successful". Adding they held "fruitful discussions" with senior officials in Moscow including the Russian special envoy for Africa Mikhail Margelov, and the deputy minister of foreign affairs, M.L. Bogdanov.

"All these meetings were focusing on how the Russian government would support recent agreement and the how areas of cooperation between the two countries," Biong stressed.

He went to point out that most senior Russian officials including special envoy have assured us of their commitment to support African Union proposal.

"The Russian government had its position very clear. They said Russia will respect African solution on the issue of Abyei like [they have] in Somalia and Mali," Biong emphasised.

Russia's special envoy to Africa, Mikhail Margelov, declared in October that his country was in favour of partitioning Abyei between the countries, a proposition dismissed by South Sudan and supported by Sudan.

Biong said that the head of the South Sudanese delegation Pagan Amum, "was very articulate about importance of bilateral relation" adding he expressed hopes that the visit will mark a new stage in the relations between Juba and Moscow.

Biong said that the newly independent country wants the challenge of "building a partnership that resists contingencies and moves beyond mere diplomatic relations", with Russia, for the mutual "economic, social and human development of the two nations".

The Russian foreign ministry in a statementissued on 7 december said Bogdanov's meeting with Pagan discussed the development of bilateral cooperation between Russia and South Sudan and the issue of Abyei.

The Sudanese delegation led by Nafie Ali Nafi during its visit to Moscow signed a number of economic contracts.

The UN Security Council will discuss the issue of Abyei next month under the presidency of Pakistan. In January also, Argentina, Australia, Luxembourg, Republic of Korea and Rwanda which will replace South Africa will join the 15-member body as no permanent members.

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