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ADDIS ABABA - 22 Oct 2013

AU calls Juba summit ‘opportunity’ on Abyei

The African Union Peace and Security Council (AUPSC) has called on Sudan and South Sudan to make progress on the issue of Abyei during a presidential summit today.

Abyei’s status remains in doubt after the failure to conduct the referendum there during the interim period ended in 2011.

Although several presidential summits in the last year have failed to resolve the issue, relations between Sudan and South Sudan nonetheless improved owing to other economic and security agreements.

Now, however, progress toward a unilateral referendum to be held by the Dinka Ngok community in the near future has increased the urgency of the issue.

AU Security Council members “expressed deep concern at the prevailing situation in the Abyei Area” after a meeting of the Council in Addis Ababa yesterday, the African Union disclosed in a press release.

The statement noted that the Council welcomed the planned meeting today between presidents Omar al Bashir and Salva Kiir. “Council strongly appealed to the two Heads of State to seize the opportunity of their Summit meeting to take concrete steps to address the challenges at hand in Abyei,” it added.

Unilateral referendum opposed

In its statement, the AUPSC reiterated support for an earlier proposal made by the mediation panel headed by Thabo Mbeki to hold a referendum in the disputed area by this month at the latest. 

However, the Council implicitly opposed the ongoing preparations for a ‘unilateral’ referendum by the Dinka Ngok, suggesting that a legitimate referendum commission had not yet been formed, nor a revised referendum law been approved.

“Council, once again, made an urgent appeal to the Parties to refrain from any unilateral action and statement that may impede progress towards the search for a lasting solution,” it stated.

In its statement the African Union appeared also to lean toward support for a compromise solution – perhaps one which would give the border territory unique status – calling on the two countries to “bear in mind the need to ensure that Abyei serves as a bridge between Sudan and South Sudan.”