The United Nations peacekeeping force in the oil-rich Abyei area, which is contested by South Sudan and Sudan, has completed its first verification mission to make sure that troops from both Governments pull out of the demilitarized border zone.
“This first joint verification mission by Sudan and South Sudan is an important first step toward implementing all security arrangements between the two countries. There’s more to do, and it is essential for long-term peace in the region that both countries build on this success,” said Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hervé Ladsous.
The UN Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) verified on Monday that during its mission on 23 March to Tishwin and the following day to Kiir Adem, which lies inside a 14 mile-wide strip of land known as the Mile 14 area, “there were no armed forces from either side in the area.”
“Both parties have begun to withdraw from the Safety Demilitarized Border Zone, which they are obliged to complete by 5 April,” Mr. Ladsous added.
UNISFA will verify the completion of the withdrawal by 12 April, according to the mission.
The Security Council established UNISFA in June 2011 following an outbreak of violence after Sudanese troops took control of Abyei, displacing tens of thousands of people in the weeks before South Sudan became an independent State after seceding from Sudan.
In December 2011, the 15- member Council expanded UNISFA’s mandate to include tasks to support a Joint Border Verification and Monitoring Mechanism (JBVMM), which consists of both sides and is tasked with monitoring the security situation in the Safe Demilitarized Border Zone.
After months of delays, the Governments agreed earlier this month to activate the JBVMM and withdraw their forces from the zone.
At that time, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon reiterated the UN’s commitment to support the operations of the JBVMM and assist the parties in the implementation of these agreements.
Meanwhile, the Secretary-General has announced the appointment of Major-General Yohannes Gebremeskel Tesfamariam of Ethiopia as the Head of Mission and Force Commander of UNISFA. Maj.-Gen. Tesfamariam succeeds Lieutenant General Tadesse Werede Tesfay of Ethiopia, who completed his assignment on 24 January.