The United Nations Security Council has extended the mandate of the Organization’s interim peacekeeping force in Abyei – a resource-rich area contested by Sudan and South Sudan – as part of ongoing efforts to maintain peace and protect civilians in the disputed territory.
Using language similar to their previous action on the issue, the 15-member body adopted the resolution in a unanimous vote held earlier today while recognizing that the continuing tensions in Abyei and along the border between Sudan and South Sudan constituted “a serious threat to international peace and security.”
The mandate of the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) was extended until 15 December 2015. The force, set up by the Council in June 2011 following an outbreak of violence after Sudanese troops took control of the oil-rich area in the weeks before South Sudan became independent, is tasked with overseeing the demilitarization of the area and maintaining security.
Among other measures, the Council welcomed the resumption of the work of the Abyei Joint Oversight Committee, otherwise known as the AJOC in March 2015. The UN body had previously declared the AJOC’s functioning as important “to ensure steady progress” on the implementation of the 20 June 2011 Agreement, which provides for temporary administrative arrangements for Abyei and the withdrawal of troops by both sides.
At the same time, the Council condemned the “intermittent presence” of South Sudan security service personnel and the deployment of Diffra Oil Police units in the Abyei area and reiterated its demands that the Government of South Sudan “immediately and without preconditions” redeploy such units away from Abyei.
The Security Council also underscored that UNISFA’s protection of civilians mandate required the peacekeeping force to take “necessary actions” in order to protect civilians under imminent threat of physical violence.