June 09, 2011

Chairman Kerry On Situation in Abyei And The Impending Independence of Southern Sudan

Washington, DC – One month from today, Southern Sudan is expected to become an independent country.  What should be a moment for celebration is in danger of disintegrating into conflict and instability that can rob North and South Sudan alike of a brighter future that is within their grasp.  Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-MA) issued the following statement on the situation:

“We are now one month away from Southern Sudan’s independence.  In January, I was privileged to witness Southern Sudan’s referendum on separation.  It was a remarkable moment for all of Sudan: the South stood on the brink of nationhood and the North stood on the threshold of a new relationship with the United States and the rest of the world.  Sadly, the optimism of that day is in peril.  The North’s occupation of Abyei and its displacement of tens of thousands of residents -- an act that is totally out of proportion to the incidents that preceded it -- jeopardizes the peaceful transition that all had hoped for and the chance for a new diplomatic and economic relationship between the United States and Northern Sudan.  Fighting in Southern Kordofan and elsewhere along the border is also very disturbing.  The situation is grave, but it is not hopeless. Both sides can re-engage in the month before separation to fulfill the promise of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement.  With the help of their international partners, the North and South can find a resolution for Abyei and for the other critical issues that will determine their mutual peace and prosperity.  Both sides have an enormous amount to gain from such an agreement and a tremendous amount to lose if they fail to take the steps necessary to secure peaceful separation and interaction.  I urge the leaders of both the North and the South to seize this opportunity.”

Specific steps that the Sudanese and the international community should take include:

  • Strengthening the United Nations presence in Abyei;
  • Direct re-engagement at the presidency level by Northern and Southern leaders to resolve critical outstanding issues and determine a way forward for July 9th and beyond; and
  • Stepped up humanitarian assistance and improved access to the displaced and others affected by the conflict in Abyei and near the border areas.

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