May 14, 2012 (KHARTOUM) – The spokesperson of the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF), Al-Sawarmi Khalid Saad, has rejected threats by the government of South Sudan to invade Abyei if Khartoum does not withdraw its troops, warning that any move to that effect will turn the disputed territory into “a zone of armed conflict.”
- FILE PHOTO - Sudanese army spokesman Sawarmi Khaled Saad (GETTY)
Speaking to Sudan’s official news agency (SUNA) on Monday, Saad also warned that SAF would not hesitate to retaliate if the southern army, known as SPLA, tries to take the area.
The spokesperson was reacting to statements in which South Sudan’s official Luka Biong warned that he would ask the government in Juba to intervene militarily in Abyei if SAF does not withdraw its troops by Tuesday 15 May.
South Sudan announced last week that it redeployed all of its police forces out of Abyei in compliance with a United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolution ordering Sudan and South Sudan to withdraw troops from contested border regions.
Sudan, on the other hand, says it will not withdraw troops unless a set of conditions, including the formation of an administrative body and the full deployment of UN Ethiopian peacekeepers, as agreed under a deal signed between Khartoum and Juba last year, are fully met.
Al-Sawarmi said that Abyei cannot be subject to Luka Biong’s threats since there are AU troops in the region and any attempt on the part of the SPLA to enter the area “will turn Abyei into a zone of armed conflict that cannot be resolved through negotiations.”
He was, however, keen to point out that SAF does not refuse a peaceful solution to the situation and reiterates its demands on South Sudan to agree on forming Abyei’s administrative and legislative bodies in order to govern the area following the military pullout.
Talks between Khartoum and Juba on forming administrative and legislative authorities in Abyei collapsed after Juba insisted that SAF must first withdraw from the region it occupied by force in May last year following an attack allegedly carried out on its troops by southern forces.
The UNSC resolution dictated that both countries conclude negotiations on Abyei’s final status among other issues within three months.
Abyei’s status was supposed to be determined via a vote originally planned to take place simultaneously with that of South Sudan on independence in January last year.
But the plebiscite stalled due to disagreements between Sudanese and South Sudanese leaders on who has the right to vote.