South Sudanese foreign minister has contested remarks attributed to Sudanese foreign minister saying that the disputed Abyei area is part of the Sudanese territory until a referendum is conducted.
“In which sense when someone says Abyei is a Sudanese territory”, asked, Deng Alor Kuol, foreign affairs minister in South Sudan? “These are issues the two presidents, President Salva and President Bashir have agreed to address, so that these misinterpretations are corrected”.
During his recent visit to Sudan, Minister Kuol, himself a native of Abyei told a newspaper in Khartoum that Abyei is a South Sudanese territory. His statement triggered a response from the Sudanese Foreign Minister Ibrahim Ghandour who pointed to Abyei Protocol in the 2005 peace agreement saying that the contested Abyei is part of the Sudanese territory until a referendum is run to determine its fate.
To organise the referendum, Khartoum and Juba had first to draw Abyei’s borders, the thorny issue was determined through the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague in July 2009. The second difference is about who is eligible to participate in the crucial vote. The two countries are still struggling to reach an agreement over this point.
In an interview, the South Sudanese top diplomat described his recent visit to Sudan as ‘successful’ saying he had three hours of frank discussions with Sudanese President Omer al-Bashir where they discussed a wide range of issues, including the need to resume discussions on Abyei so that the outstanding issues could be resolved amicably.
“President Salva Kiir was supposed to go but he delegated me because there were other commitments requiring his attention at home,” he said to explain the reason of his visit to Khartoum.
Kiir gave a special message to his brother al-Bashir, where he reiterated his commitment to the full implementation of the Cooperation Agreement and to resume discussions on all outstanding post CPA (comprehensive peace agreement) and the post secession issues.
“These issues include the issue of Abyei,” the minister stressed.
“So (al-Bashir) agreed to invite President Salva Kiir and they are working on it. I briefed President Salva upon my return and he is ready. If he receives the letter of invitation today, he will go the next day,” he said.
Sudanese officials used to say Juba didn’t implement the agreement of 27 September 2012 except the oil transit protocol because they need oil income, the only source of revenue for the landlocked country.
On the other hand they periodically repeat claims that Juba harbours and supports Sudanese rebel groups in the Two Areas and Darfur region. The distrust between the two capitals hampers progress in the discussions on the outstanding issues even if Juba has recently shown some flexibility to admit the presence of Sudanese armed groups in its territory and made public pledge to expel them.