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South Sudan says It 'Will Respect' International Ruling

An official of the South Sudanese government says despite its displeasure with the verdict, the semi-autonomous southern government will fully honor Wednesday's ruling in The Hague that redrew the boundaries of the disputed Abyei area. The decision by the Permanent Court of Arbitration redrew the contested area's borders to place its oil field in northern Sudan territory.

The head of the South Sudanese government's mission in Kenya, John Andruga Duku, told VOA that although the ruling was a disappointment, the South would hold firm to its previous position that the court's decision must be respected.

"We would have wished the outcome was different, but given that this was the decision taken by the experts, we will respect it, even if we are not happy about it," he said.

Duku expressed frustration the arbitration court had decided to narrow the Abyei area. South Sudan largely expects Abyei to choose to become part of the South in a 2011 referendum.

"Our expectation was we were hoping the entire area would be given to the Abyei people to be part of Abyei [for] when they vote in the referendum to become part of South Sudan," he said. "But this has not been the case, and we will respect the decision."

The court's verdict effectively removed the issue of oil from the Abyei dispute, restricting the area's borders to exclude the oilfield, which now permanently becomes part of northern Sudan as part of the ruling.

With both sides pledging to uphold the ruling, the significance of the region's upcoming vote of self-determination is likely to become greatly diminished, now that the sticky question of the oil fields has been resolved.

Much speculation had built up during the past week as to whether the fragile North-South peace agreement would be able to withstand the court's verdict. The head of the U.N. mission in Sudan accused the South of illegally building up forces near the Abyei area, and an international policy group released a report cautioning of possible fallout from the ruling.

The Abyei dispute was only one of a number of outstanding disagreements under the Comprehensive Peace Agreement signed between the North and South in 2005.

The speculation about a possible clash between the two sides over the announcement was fueled by recent reports suggesting an escalation in tensions between the two parties. Both sides are alleged to be acquiring new military arms, and the South has rejected national census results that are to determine the balance of power in the upcoming national elections.