Friday, July 24, 2009

Former Sudan Foes Accept Ruling on the Oil-Rich Area in Abyei

Former Sudan foes accept ruling


ABYEI--North and south Sudan have accepted yesterday’s international arbitration court ruling altering the borders of the disputed oil-rich Abyei region, officials from the former foes said.

"This decision is final and binding for both parties," Mutrif Siddiq, undersecretary of foreign affairs and a senior member of the Khartoum government, told AFP.

In Abyei itself, top leaders watched the ruling crowded round a television set in an open-sided thatched hut inside the UN peacekeeping compound.

Former southern fighter and Foreign Minister Deng Alor, there with other senior officials for the ruling, reached out to shake the hand of senior Khartoum official Ibrahim Mahmoud Hamid, the internal affairs minister, after the ruling.

Alor said his Sudan People’s Liberation Movement would accept the decision of The Hague court.

"The PCA (Permanent Court of Arbitration) decision is binding on the parties: the SPLM and the people of this area will respect this decision," he said.

But he added that there was still a need to interpret the results to see how the new borders fell in terms of oil reserves, after a Khartoum official in The Hague claimed the ruling granted disputed oil fields to the north.

"There is oil all over the place, we have to see it on paper and on land, so that we really determine where the wealth is," Alor said.

The SPLM fought a two-decade war with Khartoum, the longest civil war in Africa, before a power-sharing deal was reached in 2005.

Additional UN peacekeepers were deployed ahead of the ruling to the district bordering the Moslem north and the mainly Christian and animist south for fears of a repeat of violence that left 100 people dead in May last year.

The clashes razed Abyei town and left tens of thousands homeless in what analysts called the most serious threat yet to the 2005 peace deal.

US Special Envoy Scott Gration, who travelled to Abyei ahead of the ruling, said he was "very optimistic" following the decision.

"Everybody is committed to the arbitration as final and binding, and I think it is going to work out just fine," he said.

"The commitments that these folks have made in words, I’m convinced that they will be carried out in deed, and that this arbitration decision will be fully implemented, the border will be demarcated, and the Dinka and the Messeria will live for a long time in peace," he said.

The ruling, issued after Khartoum complained that a previous border commission had decided on the wrong frontiers, moved Abyei’s eastern, western and northern borders.

"Both parties have agreed that this question is now settled," said the UN secretary general’s special representative Ashraf Qazi, who had voiced concern about a build-up of fighters in the area before the ruling.

"This decision clearly demonstrates that, even on the most difficult and sensitive of disputes, the parties can find a peaceful solution if they work together in good faith.

"I call on all involved to cooperate to implement the decision according to the plan the parties adopted in recent talks and to guarantee the long- term interests of the people of the region."

Abdelbagi Gailaini, a member of President Omar al-Bashir’s ruling National Congress Party, said the NCP had accepted the ruling. — AFP.

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