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Sudanese military forces must withdraw from Abyei, Security Council says

The Security Council today demanded that the Government of Sudan withdraw immediately from Abyei, the disputed area which is contested by both north and south Sudan.

In a presidential statement issued today, the Council strongly condemned “the Government of Sudan’s taking and continued maintenance of military control over the Abyei area and the resulting displacement of tens of thousands of residents of Abyei.”

The statement, read out by Nelson Messone, the Permanent Representative of Gabon, which holds the rotating monthly presidency for June, added that Sudan’s military presence in the area constitutes “a serious violation” of previous agreements.

Violence and looting broke out in Abyei town after the northern troops took control of the area last month, displacing an estimated 45,000 people.

“The Council calls on the Sudanese Armed Forces to ensure an immediate halt to all looting, burning, and illegal resettlement,” the statement said. “The Council stresses that all those responsible for violations of international law, including humanitarian and human rights law, as well as those who ordered those acts, will be held accountable.”

A previous Council statement condemned an attack by Southern forces against a convoy of the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS), and today’s statement condemned two additional attacks last month.

Noting that supply routes have been blocked and a bridge in Southern Abyei was destroyed by the Sudanese Armed Forces, the Council called “on all parties to respect humanitarian principles and allow all humanitarian personnel timely and unfettered access to vulnerable individuals and communities affected by the fighting.”

The presidential statement echoed remarks made by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who last month called on “both parties to cease their military operations, withdraw all forces and armed elements from the Abyei Area, and desist from further acts of aggression, including attacks on UN peacekeepers.”

The recent violence is taking place just weeks before Southern Sudan formally separates from the rest of the country, following a referendum held in January.

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