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US Urges Immediate North-South Sudan Talks on Abyei Crisis


US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson (file photo)

US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson (file photo)

The United States is calling for immediate talks between the leaders of northern and southern Sudan to resolve a territorial dispute that threatens the peaceful secession of the south on July 9th. Two senior U.S. envoys visited Khartoum Wednesday to underscore U.S. concern.

The State Department’s chief Africa diplomat is calling for emergency north-south Sudanese talks to settle a crisis over the disputed Abyei region that threatens the country’s six-year peace process.

Southern Sudan is due to become an independent state July 9th to climax fulfillment of the country’s 2005 Comprehensive Peace Accord, the CPA.

A relatively-smooth implementation process was jolted in last month when northern troops seized most of the Abyei region, an oil-rich area in the central part of the country that remains in dispute.

At a press event here, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson reiterated U.S. condemnation of the northern military move.

He called on Sudanese President Omar el-Bashir and southern leader Salva Kiir to hold immediate talks on ways to restore calm, uphold the CPA, and recommit to a peaceful resolution of the Abyei issue.

“We are deeply concerned about the situation in Abyei, and in southern Sudan," said Carson. "We want to do as much as we possibly can between now and July 9th to assure that the Comprehensive Peace Agreement is fully complied with. We want to see a withdrawal of Sudanese troops from the areas of Abyei. And we are looking for both senior leaders to meet together to discuss how to defuse tensions between the two parties, and to fully implement the remaining items that have to be complied with to complete the CPA.”

Carson said the same message was conveyed by Obama counterterrorism adviser John Brennan and U.S. Sudan Special Envoy Princeton Lyman in talks with senior officials in Khartoum Wednesday.

Brennan will go on to the Gulf region for talks while Lyman will remain in the region to work with the Sudanese parties, the African Union and the United Nations to address the Abyei crisis.

The Obama administration has held out the removal of the Khartoum government from the U.S. list of State Sponsors of Terrorism - the SST - and normalization of relations with Sudan, as incentives for allowing the peaceful independence of the south.

Carson indicated strongly that the north’s seizure of Abiyei jeopardizes the terrorism list issue and the promised U.S. roadmap to normalized ties.

“The review and the basis for taking them off the list are defined legislatively, and that will be the most important guidepost," he said. "They have to meet the legislative requirements for being taken off the SST. But there is no doubt that the events of the last several weeks do undermine people’s confidence in the commitment to follow through on the road map that was laid out some months ago.”

To remove Sudan from the terrorism list, and lift associated sanctions, the Obama administration would have to certify to Congress that the Khartoum government has not been involved in any recent acts of terrorism.

The United States has not had an ambassador in Khartoum since 1998, though it has a diplomatic mission there. It has recently opened a mission in the southern capital, Juba, and has promised to recognize an independent South Sudan in July.

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