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Top UN envoy in Sudan welcomes deal to end deadly clashes in disputed town

Top UN envoy in Sudan welcomes deal to end deadly clashes in disputed town

Ashraf Qazi
The top United Nations official in Sudan today welcomed the agreement to end the deadly fighting between Government forces and the former southern rebels in the disputed Abyei area, which has forced thousands of civilians to flee this week.

Ashraf Qazi, the Secretary-General's Special Representative in Sudan, issued a statement expressing deep concern about the security situation in Abyei, an oil-rich area that is still contested by the Government and the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA), with whom they signed a peace accord in 2005 to end the long-running north-south civil war.

The town of Abyei is now largely deserted as a result of the shooting and most staff with the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) have been evacuated from the area. But a meeting of the area joint military committee – under the chairmanship of UNMIS – yesterday reached agreement on an end to the clashes.

Mr. Qazi urged both sides to respect all provisions of the agreement, including an immediate ceasefire and the removal of other armed groups from Abyei. He also called for civilians and civilian installations to be fully protected.

“The latest development in Abyei, whose complex problems represent one of the most difficult challenges facing the successful implementation of the comprehensive peace agreement (CPA) in Sudan, underscores the importance of fully implementing the Abyei protocol,” he said.

An impasse over the boundaries of Abyei – which lies near the boundary between north and south Sudan – has been one of the main stumbling blocks hindering the full implementation of the CPA, which ended more than two decades of conflict, and is separate to the ongoing fighting in the western region of Darfur.

Mr. Qazi added that as a first step the Government and the SPLA need to establish an interim administration to ensure the delivery of basic services to the people of Abyei and to serve as a mechanism for resolving differences and preventing the emergence of conflicts.