News / Africa

US Envoy Returning to Sudan for Crisis Talks

President Obama is sending U.S. Sudan envoy Princeton Lyman back to the region amid rising violence that could complicate South Sudan’s scheduled independence July 9. U.S. officials want China to use its leverage with the Sudanese government in Khartoum to calm the situation.

The announcement of Lyman’s planned return to Sudan later this month followed a White House meeting between the senior envoy and President Obama, and it reflects deep U.S. concern about north-south tensions.

The trouble in the Abyei and South Kordofan regions is not expected to derail plans for southern independence on July 9th.

But it does diminish hopes that the separation will be amicable and yield constructive political and economic relations between the two states.

A White House statement said President Obama is deeply concerned about violence and a lack of humanitarian access to the two areas, and that the Sudanese parties urgently need to get back to cooperative talks to fulfill their 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement, the CPA.

In comments directed to leaders in Khartoum, Mr. Obama said they must not “throw away” the opportunity to move toward the promise of greater peace and prosperity.

The administration this week warned Sudan that its seizure of much of Abyei and actions in Southern Kordofan jeopardize the “road map” to normal relations the United States has offered it as an incentive to fulfill the CPA.

At a Congressional hearing Thursday, ambassador Lyman, who joined Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Sudan talks in Addis Ababa earlier this week, said Khartoum has much to lose if it reneges on CPA commitments.

“The north, after July 9th, will lose about 60 per cent of their revenue, they will be shouldering a $38 billion debt, they will have very serious economic problems. They already are experiencing some of those. The only way to resolve these, or deal with them, is to come back into the good graces of the international community,” Lyman said.

Lyman said international mediators are “fairly close” to an agreement that would get Sudanese forces out of Abyei, and said an agreement on South Kordofan is being “put together,” but is not as far along.

Lyman was preceded at the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee hearing by former U.S. Sudan envoy Roger Winter, who took a much tougher line toward the Khartoum government.

Winter said there is “no moral equivalence” between the Khartoum government of President Omar al-Bashir, which has been charged with war crimes in Darfur, and the administration in the south, and he said he fears  mass killings by Sudanese forces in the disputed areas after July 9.

“I think the possibility of massive liquidations of populations north of South Sudan, that are basically the same people as in the south - I think they are at risk and I think our talking has not paid off, and we’re almost out of time,” Winter said.

Winter said a Western military strike against a selected Sudanese military site might be necessary to show international resolve to get Khartoum to live up to its CPA obligations.

The United States has shunned direct contacts with President Bashir. But the Sudanese leader is due to visit China later this month, and State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Thursday it is a chance for Beijing to press him to act constructively.

“We hope that Beijing takes this opportunity to reaffirm the importance of stopping the violence, of getting back to the CPA, and of full accountability for past issues,” Nuland said.

China has invested billions of dollars developing Sudanese oil resources, much of which will be in the prospective new southern state.

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