MS. FULTON: Good afternoon and welcome to the State Department. We’re very happy to have with us today U.S. Special Envoy for Sudan Ambassador Princeton Lyman to talk to us about the – to give an update about the situation in Sudan, his upcoming trip to the region, as we move toward the independence to be – take place next week on July 9th.
Without further ado, Ambassador Lyman.
AMBASSADOR LYMAN: Thank you, Heide. Thank you for all being here on a Friday before a big holiday. Let me just bring you up to date on where we are and what’s going to happen in the next nine days.
Let me go back a little bit because I think it’s important to put it in perspective. If you go back to last summer when there was a great deal of concern about the peace process in Sudan and whether it was in danger between the North and the South and the then-still pending referendum on whether the South would secede, you’ll recall the President went to the UN and led, in a meeting of heads of state, about the process in bringing a lot of international attention to that, and a lot of work subsequent to that that resulted in the referendum coming off on January 9th peacefully and effectively and recognized by the Government of Sudan that the South was in fact going to become independent.
Since then, a lot of the issues that have to be negotiated between the two – the negotiations have been up and down, and frankly, got thrown off badly by fighting that erupted in two areas – Abyei and the state of Southern Kordofan. And much of the last several weeks has been spent by the White House, by the Secretary, by myself and others on bringing those situations back under control. And at least Abyei is now under control and an agreement on the withdrawal of forces has been reached, and the Ethiopians are going to be reinforcing the UN in Abyei. On Southern Kordofan, there is a political framework agreement, but work is still going on on the cessation of hostilities, and we continue to press very hard for more humanitarian access to the people who’ve been displaced.
Having said that, I think that, in fact, we are going to see on July 9th a effective celebratory event in Juba when the South becomes officially independent. And we just heard the other day from the foreign minister in – from Khartoum saying once again the – that Khartoum will be the first country to recognize the South’s independence and to establish diplomatic presence there.
So I think that is still fundamentally on track, but there are a number of issues they did not resolve in time and which still are out there. Those include two major issues, and that is the degree to which there will be a tapering off rather than a sudden stopping of the oil revenue shared between the South and the North, and the permanent status of Abyei. I don’t think those will be resolved fully by July 9th for reasons having to do in part by the need to withdraw the Sudanese troops from Abyei. But it is important that the two agree that there will not be an interruption in the oil sector, and that there will be a firm timetable for resolving those two big issues.
We do think it’s very important that assurances be given by July 9th to the more than one million Southerners living in the North that they will not be stateless, that their situation will not be abruptly put in threat, and that they won’t trigger any kind of panic. And we need to see those assurances by July 9th. We also want to see by then the firming up of an agreement they’ve just reached on demilitarizing the border, and as I mentioned, to get a cessation of the fighting in Southern Kordofan. Those are some of the critical things that they need to do between now and July 9th, and then to finish up in July the remaining issues.
I think this can all happen, but it’s going to take a lot of work. It’s going to take a lot of courageous decision-making. The international community has been mobilized and it’s become very active in these last few days. I met with the diplomatic community here this morning when we discussed this. I am leaving tomorrow for Addis Ababa where Prime Minister Meles of Ethiopia is convening a summit of IGAD – that’s the East African heads of state – and Thabo Mbeki, who leads the negotiations on North-South issues will be there. And we expect more progress on these matters to be made in the coming week, and then I’ll go on from there to Juba.
So that’s where we are in the situation. I think it’s – there are still a lot of problems out there, but I think it’s come a long way. I do think July 9th is going to come off in the way it should as bringing to an end decades of civil war between the North and the South.
QUESTION: Sorry, can I --
AMBASSADOR LYMAN: Or Heide, you should do it.
MS. FULTON: You go ahead and I’ll direct the questions, please. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Sure, sure. Elise Labott, CNN.
AMBSSADOR LYMAN: Took her job.
QUESTION: Thank you, Ambassador. The Administration and previous administrations as well have put a lot kind of political clout and effort into this agreement and the referendum. But could you talk a little bit what happens after July 9th, in terms of U.S. assistance to this fledging state? And I think that there is a concern that while there’s certainly a desire to be an independent state, that the pieces are not all in place for it to stand on its own. And if you could talk about U.S. assistance as it moves forward?
AMBASSADOR LYMAN: No, the South faces an enormous set of challenges coming out of decades of civil war, and you can see it when you’re there – the lack of infrastructure, the impact of people having been displaced so much, lack of educational facilities, et cetera. So the government faces a lot of problems. It also has to continue to face the transition from being a liberation army to being a government, and creating what is a civilian government with a more modern security situation.
And they’re plagued by these continuing militia fights that are going on that are causing insecurity in several states, and by the need to develop much more capacity to deliver services. Now, the United States has a very significant aid program already in South Sudan, over $300 million a year, and it will continue in that vein. And we are supporting at the UN a new UN mission just for South Sudan that will be heavily geared to building capacity, building capacity at not only the national level, but the state and county level, in conflict resolution, in development, in security, et cetera. And we expect other donors to come together in that. So I think there will be a lot of international help available. But the challenges are significant.
QUESTION: What about – just one follow-up. What about political and diplomatic kind of help? I mean, how soon do you think that nations will be, including the U.S., putting an ambassador on the ground, standing up --
AMBASSADOR LYMAN: I think it’s going to go very rapidly. I think a number of countries are already making those preparations, some have established their own consulates in some cases, already naming people who will move up to be ambassador. So I think it will come fairly fast. Facilities are tight in Juba, as you know. But I think it’s going to go quite fast.
The Southern Sudanese were – I forget the exact term – guests at the AU Summit that just is taking place. The AU has pledged to move fast on bringing them in as a full member. I know the World Bank and the IMF is going to move fast. So I think it will go relatively fast.
QUESTION: And the U.S. is going to appoint an ambassador soon?
AMBASSADOR LYMAN: We will appoint an ambassador, yeah.
QUESTION: I’m sorry, I --
MS. FULTON: Next, Said.
QUESTION: Thank you, Ambassador. Sir, you said that Khartoum will likely to be the first to recognize a country in the South--
AMBASSADOR LYMAN: That’s what they have said.
QUESTION: Okay. So, but do you expect that relations will be normal between the two countries? Is the regime in the North likely to create problems for the South? Have they resolved the issue of the status of the Southerners in the North and vice versa?
AMBASSADOR LYMAN: Look, this is going to be a relationship that comes after decades of civil war. There’s a lot of anger and distrust and strong feelings on both sides. And you see those feelings jump to the surface in almost every negotiating situation. And it makes the resolution of some of these issues much harder than if you just had two friendly groups trying to resolve a problem. So that’s going to be part of the character of the relations.
These are two states that have emerged from civil war. But as long as they are – have made the commitment not to go back to war, yes, the relationship will be rocky at times, they’ll argue very strongly over some issues, there may even be a clash here or there – it could happen. But I think it’s so much in the interests of the two states to find a way to live together that I think that will be the dominant process. But it won’t be a – sometimes I say they probably won’t be kissing each other’s cheek, but they should be shaking hands.
QUESTION: But you’re comfortable that these existing animosities will not translate into open conflict?
AMBASSADOR LYMAN: I think both sides really feel that a return to general war would be disastrous for both of them. That doesn’t mean that, like we saw in Abyei and we’re seeing in Southern Kordofan, that military clashes might not occur because they haven’t either resolved an issue or emotions get carried to extreme. I’m hoping that doesn’t happen, of course. But I really think, from all the conversations I’ve had, that neither side wants or intends to go back to general war.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. FULTON: Andy.
QUESTION: I’ve got a couple of questions, Mr. Ambassador. Firstly, on South Sudan and its sort of economic viability, there have been suggestions that perhaps the expectations they have for oil revenues, they’re not going to be realized and that they’re going to be looking at some serious budget shortfalls very quickly. I’m wondering if you could outline where you see them on that?
And the second question being, the Ethiopian troops moving in, there’s also an idea that this might be – take some time before you can actually get a substantial force in there to do what needs doing. Is there any concern that that’s not going to happen fast enough to prevent more violence?
AMBASSADOR LYMAN: On the first question, the Norwegians have done a good analysis of the oil sector and for both North and South. The point is that the oil income is going to drop off steadily over the next five years unless major either technological changes are made or new discoveries are made. So both the North and South have to understand that they can’t rely on oil as the foundation of their budgets or economies over time.
So that’s going to be a big challenge for the South because they have so many things to do. But they are aware of it, they are building it into their thinking about diversification. The U.S. is going to do – put a lot of emphasis on agriculture because the potential is very great and relatively quick. They’re looking for private investments. They’re looking for other mineral resources.
But, yeah, that’s going to be a challenge, no question about it. And it’s one of the more stark realities that the Norwegians put on the table very early in the negotiations and sort of caught everybody’s attention.
QUESTION: Ethiopian --
AMBASSADOR LYMAN: On the Ethiopian troops, well, God bless the Ethiopians. They have prepared for this and they’re moving remarkably fast. We think that there will be one battalion by July 9th, and the other two battalions not far behind. I can’t give you exact dates on when the full force will be there, but they have really moved very rapidly in working with the UN to make this deployment as quickly as possible.
MS. FULTON: Shaun.
QUESTION: (Inaudible.) I know this is slightly different from the topic of North-South, but President Bashir just returned from China --
AMBASSADOR LYMAN: Right.
QUESTION: -- the State Department has commented before the trip – what’s the sense that you got from the trip? What was the message sent by China? Are you concerned that China may now move to arrest him and actually welcomed him?
AMBASSADOR LYMAN: We’ve talked with China often about Sudan. I’ve met several times with my counterpart, the Chinese special envoy Ambassador Liu. I think the Chinese share a great deal of what we want in Sudan. That is, they want stability, they want a peaceful relationship between North and South. Their oil interests straddle the two. They are big investors in the oil sector. They are marketers of the oil. They’re importers of the oil. They know the oil’s on both sides of the border. They’re really moving rapidly to establish their relationships and programs in the South.
I think the message – and we have every indication their message to President Bashir has been, look, you’ve got to resolve the issues of the CPA; we want to see peace between the two; we’ll be with you and we’ll be with the South. I think that’s the message they’re conveying. That’s the indications I have, and that’s the right message. And so that’s helpful in itself.
The Chinese, along with the Russians, have joined us recently in a demarche to say that we all think that there should be some UN presence in the North as well as the South, along the borders or somewhere like that, and that’s helpful. Again, when you have the P-5 together it makes a difference. So I think on the whole, it’s been positive.
QUESTION: Could I follow up on that? If it’s – if there have been – if it’s been a positive development, if they’ve responded in a positive way – but the very fact of President Bashir going to China when there is a situation over war crimes, was that troubling?
AMBASSADOR LYMAN: Well, yes, and we – it’s a standard position of the U.S. that countries should not be inviting him, and that Sudan should be cooperating with the International Criminal Court. That’s a position we’ve taken, and we took it with regard to this visit as well.
MS. FULTON: I think we have time for maybe one more question. Dave.
QUESTION: I’ve heard it argued that the – we can expect the North to be less cooperative now with the CPA over, and that they don’t really take seriously the idea that the U.S. could deliver on the roadmap in any case. Do you think their level --
AMBASSADOR LYMAN: There’s a --
QUESTION: -- level of cooperation --
AMBASSADOR LYMAN: There is a strong sentiment and they’ve voiced it very openly to me that they don’t believe us on the roadmap, that we’ll come up with – we’ll move the goalposts, we’ll add things, we’ll find excuses, et cetera. The fact is, and I can be very clear on this, the Administration is very committed on the roadmap, very specifically so, and part of my trip here is going to be to reinforce that. The President’s taken the steps that he promised to take and he fully intends to follow through if they follow through on the conditions in the roadmap.
MS. FULTON: Okay.
QUESTION: Just a tiny one.
MS. FULTON: Okay, one last tiny one.
QUESTION: You may not be able to answer it, but I was just wondering, is there going to be a high-level – higher than your august self – high-level U.S. representation in Juba on July 9th? And can you tell us --
AMBASSADOR LYMAN: I have to refer you to the White House. They put together the official delegation.
MS. FULTON: Okay. Thanks, everybody. Thank you, Ambassador Lyman, for your time.
AMBASSADOR LYMAN: Thank you. Have a happy Fourth.
QUESTION: Thanks for that.