Saturday, September 10, 2011

Agreement Reached on North, South Military Pullout of Abyei Region in Sudan

North, South Sudan agree to complete Abyei pullout this month

By Tesfa-Alem Tekle
Sudan Tribune

September 9, 2011(ADDIS ABABA) - Sudan and newly independent South Sudan on Thursday agreed to completely withdraw their respective armed forces from the contested oil-producing border region of Abyei before October, a UN official said.

The agreement was reached after representatives of the two governments met for talks in the Ethiopia capital, Addis Ababa. The accord was brokered by an African Union mediation panel led by former South African President Thabo Mbeki.

Khartoum government dropped its precondition of insisting a governing administration is established before pulling out its military. However it has now agreed to begin the withdrawal on Friday and to complete it by the end of September.

"This was agreed today in Addis this morning" Edmond Mulet, deputy head of the UN peacekeeping department told reporters shortly after a Security Council meeting on Sudan on Thursday.

"They have agreed that between the 11th of September until the 30th of September there’s going to be this redeployment or withdrawal of the troops from (the two countries’ armies) from Abyei," Mulet said.

Abyei has recently become a source of conflict between North and South after Northern forces occupied the flashpoint area in May, raising fears of a renewal of Sudan’s 21-year North-South civil war that killed some 2 million people.

Leaders from North and South Sudan signed an agreement in Addis Ababa later in June to fully demilitarise the central region and allow an Ethiopian peacekeeping force to move in.

Following the African Union brokered agreement, the UN mandated deployment of 4,200 Ethiopian peacekeeping forces to Abyei. However no civilian or political staff have been approved by Khartoum for the mission.

Ethiopia which is seen as honest broker from both sides has already deployed 1,700 troops to the oil-producing Abyei, a region claimed by both North and South.

If implemented the latest accord is believed to ease the peacekeeping operations of the Ethiopian UN peacekeeping force which is currently monitoring the flash point region.

Despite a peaceful North-South divorce on 9 July, there still remain other pending issues including the fate of Abyei. Fees for using northern oil infrastructure to export oil from landlocked South Sudan is one of the major issues as well as demarcating the ill defined border.

A referendum in Abyei - agreed as part of a 2005 north-south peace deal - to decide whether it will remain the the North of join South Sudan has not taken place due to disagreement on who could take part.

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