The United States is urging Sudan to meet its obligations under the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) and hold a referendum on-time that could see the South of the country secede from the North, otherwise, Khartoum could face new sanctions.
State Department Spokesman P.J. Crowley told reporters on the sidelines of annual meetings at the United Nations that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met earlier Tuesday with Sudanese Vice President Ali Osman Taha.
"She affirmed the U.S. commitment to full implementation of the CPA and reiterated that we need to see decisive action to ensure a peaceful, on-time referenda - it should be referenda - both for South Sudan and Abyei [region] in support of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement," said P.J. Crowley.
The 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement ended Sudan's two-decade long north-south civil war.
Spokesman Crowley said Vice President Taha reiterated Khartoum's commitment to the CPA, and agreed there is a lot to be done before the January vote.
Western diplomats at the United Nations have in recent weeks expressed concern that preparations for the referenda are stalled. They worry that a postponed vote, or one that is seen to not have a credible result, could throw the country back into violence.
The U.S. spokesman said Washington is dispatching Princeton Lyman, a senior American diplomat, to the region again next week, as the U.S. increases its presence on ground and intensifies its work with the parties. Crowley stressed the importance of Sudan meeting its obligations under the terms of the CPA, and said there would be consequences if it does not.
"If they don't do what we expect them to do - and we are setting an appropriately a high bar in terms of what Khartoum and Juba need to do - then there will be consequences, and those include a mix of carrots and sticks," he said.
He added that if Sudan, which is among the most heavily sanctioned countries in the world already, does what is expected of it, then there would be "clear opportunities" available to Khartoum. Other U.S. officials have said those opportunities would include improved relations with the United States and others in the international community.
The United Nations, which has more than 30,000 peacekeepers in South Sudan and Darfur, is hosting a special meeting Friday on the implementation of the CPA, which President Barack Obama is scheduled to attend. In advance of the session, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced Tuesday that he is appointing a three-person high-level panel to monitor the upcoming referenda.
The panel will be headed by former Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa and the two other members are former Portuguese Foreign Minister Antonio Monteiro and the former Chairman of Nepal's Election Commission, Bhojraj Pokharel.
The panel will make periodic visits to Sudan between now and January to engage all relevant actors and parties to the CPA, the referendum commissions, civil society and observer groups.