Earlier today, the Government of Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement signed an agreement in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, which will reduce tensions in Abyei and improve the security and humanitarian situation on the ground. I spoke with leaders from both sides in Addis Ababa last week and I have had more phone discussions with Sudanese leaders since. I know these negotiations have not been easy. I commend both parties for resolving their differences peacefully after the outbreak of violence.
I also want to thank the African Union High-Level Implementation Panel and its chairman Thabo Mbeki, Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles, and UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Sudan Haile Menkerios for the important role each played in facilitating dialogue between the parties. The agreement signed today is an important first step – but the real test of the parties’ commitment will be the full implementation of its provisions in the coming days. We will work within the UN Security Council to seek a resolution authorizing the agreed-upon interim security force to support the swift deployment of the Ethiopian peacekeepers. At the same time, I urge all parties to follow through on their commitment to withdraw their military forces and take steps to facilitate the return of the tens of thousands of people displaced by recent fighting.
The United States is still concerned about on-going violence in Southern Kordofan and the resulting humanitarian crisis. We call on both sides to allow unfettered access for aid workers to provide humanitarian assistance to those in need. We also urge Sudanese leaders in Addis Ababa to agree on an immediate cessation of hostilities.
By channeling this cooperative spirit that led to a successful referendum, and by continuing the dialogue that led to the agreement on the withdrawal of forces from Abyei, Sudan’s leaders can still work together in the lead up to July and start a new chapter in their country’s history. One of peace, prosperity, and closer ties with the international community.