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UN mission concerned over fighting in Abyei, urges civilian protection

The United Nations peacekeeping mission in Sudan (UNMIS) today expressed deep concern over troop build-up and reported fighting, including the use of heavy artillery and bombing, in the disputed Abyei area and appealed to both parties in the conflict to protect civilians.

“UNMIS urges all parties to immediately cease hostilities and requests the withdrawal of all unauthorized forces from the area in compliance with the CPA [Comprehensive Peace Agreement] ceasefire [?] and the Kadugli Agreements.”

The mission strongly encouraged all parties in Abyei to resume dialogue towards reaching a lasting political settlement.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and UNMIS yesterday condemned an attack against a convoy of UN vehicles in Abyei, saying the assault constituted a serious breach of previous agreements made between the two parties to the dispute.

The attack took place on Friday in Dokura, an area controlled by the Southern Sudan Police Services (SSPS), about 10 kilometres north of Abyei town.

The convoy that came under attack was transporting 200 troops of Joint Integrated Units (JIU) of the Sudan Armed Forces to their designated post, as part of the deployment plan under the Kadugli Agreements agreed by all parties.

“The attack was not only a serious breach of agreements between the parties, but also a criminal act against the United Nations,” said a statement issued by Mr. Ban's spokesperson. The Secretary-General urged the two parties to immediately investigate the incident and ensure those accountable are brought to justice. UNMIS also demanded an investigation and appropriate action against the perpetrators.

Mr. Ban voiced concern over reports of increased troop movements into Abyei and called on all parties to reduce tensions, implement the Kadugli Agreement and immediately withdraw all unauthorized forces from the Abyei area.

“We remind the parties of their responsibility to protect civilians in the area. UNMIS remains ready to continue to assist the parties in the implementation of the Kadugli Agreement and urge them to do everything possible to stay on course in the implementation of this agreement and avoid any actions that could derail it,” the mission added.

Under the Kadugli and Abyei Agreements, signed in January and March respectively, both the Government of Sudan and the Government of Southern Sudan committed to the total withdrawal of all unauthorized forces from the Abyei area, leaving the maintenance of security to the joint integrated military units and joint integrated police units, which are made up of personnel from both sides.

Earlier this month, the Abyei Joint Technical Committee, which is facilitated by UNMIS, agreed to start the withdrawal of all unauthorized forces and the deployment of the joint integrated units.

Deadly clashes have claimed dozens of lives since the start of the year, when a referendum on Abyei's status that was supposed to have been held never took place amid disagreement on voter eligibility.

Southern Sudan will secede from the rest of the country in July as a result of a separate referendum held in January and both north and south claim Abyei.

Last week, the Security Council voiced deep concern over the situation in Abyei and urged the two sides to reach an agreement on the area's status as soon as possible.

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