Ban Ki-moon ‘deeply concerned’ at fighting in disputed Sudanese town

Ban Ki-moon ‘deeply concerned’ at fighting in disputed Sudanese town

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United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says he is deeply concerned about renewed fighting between the Sudanese Government and rebel forces in the area around the disputed town of Abyei, which lies in an oil-rich area near the boundary between north and south Sudan.

The clashes, which began on 13 May, have resulted in the destruction of Abyei town and the displacement of between 30,000 and 50,000 people.

Mr. Ban, in a statement released today by a spokesperson, urges both parties to immediately observe a ceasefire agreement that was reached on Sunday under the auspices of the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS).

An impasse over the boundaries and status of Abyei has been one of the major stumbling blocks preventing the full implementation of the January 2005 comprehensive peace agreement (CPA) that ended the long-running north-south civil war in Sudan.

Fighting in Abyei has displaced between 30,000 to 50,000 people southwards, leaving the town almost deserted.

“If the situation is not urgently addressed, the achievements thus far of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement could be placed at serious risk,” the Secretary-General added.

The UN has set up five humanitarian hubs to help the displaced population, but operations are being endangered by continuing insecurity. Aid workers reported aerial bombing of a position to the north of one of the hubs.

In his statement, Mr. Ban stresses that there can be no military solution to the dispute over Abyei, and he reminds both the Government and rebels of their commitment to find a peaceful solution which respects the rights and needs of both sides and of the people of the area.

In a related development, the UN’s top envoy to Sudan appealed to both sides to exercise the utmost restraint and to take immediate steps towards disengaging their forces.

Ashraf Qazi the Secretary-General's Special Representative in Sudan said this would enable UNMIS to revive ceasefire monitoring mechanisms and pave the way for full implementation of the CPA with respect to Abyei.