posted on TUE 13 NOV 2012 6:08 PM
Sudan/South Sudan Dialogue with Mbeki and Abyei Mission Renewal

Tomorrow morning (14 November), Council members are scheduled to hold an informal interactive dialogue via video-conference with Thabo Mbeki, chair of the AU High-Level Panel (AUHIP), and Haile Menkerios, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Sudan and South Sudan. The head of UN peacekeeping, Hervé Ladsous, will also be present to answer operational questions. (This informal meeting format was chosen as Mbeki is not a UN official.) It seems some Council members are hoping that Mbeki’s briefing will be helpful in determining the Council’s next steps with respect to Sudan/South Sudan. At press time, no immediate outcome was anticipated, although it is possible that a draft statement could be circulated following the meeting.

Council members are keen to get Mbeki’s assessment of the state of affairs between Sudan and South Sudan and clarity on recent developments. In particular, several members seek a better understanding of the AUHIP’s report submitted to the AU Peace and Security Council (PSC) on 24 October and the PSC’s 24 October communiqué. (The communiqué requested the parties to resolve the status of Abyei within six weeks , using as a basis the AUHIP proposal of 21 September that called for a referendum to be held in October 2013. Such a referendum would include the participation of the Ngok Dinka and other permanent residents of Abyei to determine whether the area belongs to Sudan or South Sudan.)

Of particular interest to Council members will be the PSC’s assertion that if the parties have not reached an agreement after six weeks, it will “endorse the 21 September 2012 proposal as final and binding, and seek the endorsement by the UN Security Council of the same.”

It is unclear how the Council will respond to the PSC communiqué pronouncements with respect to Abyei. Some Council members appear willing to support the PSC’s decision. However, others believe that such an endorsement would be tantamount to imposing a solution on Abyei that is not amenable to Sudan. (Sudan has clearly expressed its disagreement with the AUHIP 21 September proposal on Abyei.) These Council members believe that any solution to the status of Abyei must be arrived at through consensual agreements between the parties.

During Mbeki’s briefing tomorrow, Council members may also be keen to hear about the AUHIP’s strategies for determining the future status of the contested border areas. In its 24 October communiqué, the PSC decided that if the parties were unable to reach agreement on the status of the contested areas along their border within two weeks, the AUHIP should submit a proposal to the PSC, “which will then make a final and binding determination and seek the endorsement of the UN Security Council of the same.”

Another recurring issue likely to be discussed tomorrow is the ongoing conflict and related humanitarian crisis in South Kordofan and Blue Nile. Heavy fighting has been reported in South Kordofan in recent weeks between armed forces of Sudan and rebels from the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement - North. While all Council members appear concerned about the difficult humanitarian situation in South Kordofan and Blue Nile, it seems that there has not been progress in implementing the AU, UN, and Arab League Tripartite initiative to deliver humanitarian assistance to civilian populations in these two states.

It seems that some Council members were also keen to hear from Mbeki before finalising a draft resolution on the renewal of the mandate of UN Interim Security Force in Abyei (UNISFA) for an additional six months. (UNISFA’s mandate expires on 17 November.) It appears that one of the more divisive issues during the negotiations has been how to characterise the PSC’s 24 October communiqué, particularly its pronouncements on Abyei. Council members have been negotiating the text at expert level, after the US—as lead on the issue—circulated a draft text on 8 November. However, after failing to reach agreement late last night (12 November), the adoption of the draft resolution, which had been scheduled for today, has been postponed to allow for further negotiations at higher levels. It is unclear when Council memberswill be able to come to agreement on the text although there is growing urgency to do so with the expiration of UNISFA’s mandate this Saturday.

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