Cape Town — Ethiopian peacekeepers are expected to move into the contested Abyei region of Sudan under a deal negotiated between the Khartoum government and South Sudan, says the African Union's mediator on Sudan, former South African president Thabo Mbeki.
In an interview aired by the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) on Monday, Mbeki said talks to resolve recent conflict in Abyei and to chart the way forward had wrapped up on Sunday. In the interview, recorded on Sunday, he said he hoped an agreement would be signed on Monday. [The Associated Press on Monday, reporting from Addis Ababa, quoted Mbeki as saying the agreement has now been signed.]
Mbeki said the next step after signing would be for the United Nations Security Council to convene, clearing the way for the deployment of an Ethiopian peacekeeping contingent. Both Khartoum and the South's governments would pull their troops out of the contested area, he added.
Mbeki told the SABC that the AU panel which he heads hoped to conclude "all of the necessary arrangements which relate to what the relations will be between these two countries" by the end of June. South Sudan is scheduled to become an independent nation on July 9.
In the interview, Mbeki also said Sudan's "fundamental problem" was what "some Sudanese have described as the failure to deal with diversity... the failure to address [the matter of]... unity in diversity... It is that failure which produced this crisis in Sudan."
In a statement issued last week, the United States State Department said President Barack Obama had urged Sudanese leaders not to "throw away the opportunity to move toward the promise of greater peace and prosperity."