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US’s Rice supports African panel’s proposal over Abyei

October 4, 2012 (WASHINGTON) – U.S Ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice expressed its support to a proposal made by the African mediation to settle to settle the disagreement between Sudan and South Sudan over who can participate in a referendum that will decide Abyei’s future.

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U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice addresses the media following a UN Security Council meeting on 4 October 2012 (ST)

The African Union High Implementation Panel (AUHIP) last September handed a proposal to Khartoum and Juba suggesting to hold a referendum over whether Abyei remains in Sudan or joins South Sudan in October 2013. Also the mediation supported the South Sudanese position which rejects the participation of the Misseriya nomads in the vote.

Juba accepted the proposal which gives the Ngok Dinka a dominant majority of voters as only the small minority of Misseriya residing permanently in the area can participate. Khartoum rejected the proposition and reiterated its support to a previous proposal the mediation made in 2010 suggesting to divide the area between the two parties.

Following a Security Council (UNSC) consultations meeting held Thursday on Sudan-South Sudan process and on the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA), Rice in remarks to the media backed the recent proposal made by AUHIP’s chief Thabo Mbeki.

Mbeki "has tabled a proposal that is consistent with the Abyei protocol and the findings of the Permanent Court of Arbitration. We think that’s a worthy and valid proposal and we hope it will remain the basis of the negotiating efforts going forward," she said.

The African chief mediator is expected to brief the Security Council during the next weeks about the nine agreements signed by the governments of Sudan and South Sudan on 27 September in Addis Ababa. He is also expected to tackle his proposal over Abyei and other outstanding issues.

Rice further said Mebki will address the issue of Abyei in a report to the AU peace and security Council (AUPSC) first and to the Security Council after.

It is not clear if the chief mediator would follow the same demarche as he did in the issue of 14 miles and ask the AUPSC and the UNSC to endorse his proposal or he would opt for another solution.

The position of the mediation over Abyei will condition the implementation of the agreed deals and the fate of the process because if it continues to hold its proposal that might lead to more frustration among the parties and feeds distrust over its credibility.

Rice stressed the need to implement fully the signed agreements but also pointed out the urgency to settle the unresolved issues saying its crucial for "the sustainability improved ties between North and South."

She underscored that the progress realised in the talks reflects the unity of UNSC members over the resolution 2046. Adding " we will continue to remain united, particularly as we press for progress in the Two Areas".

The American ambassador said the resolution of Blue Nile and south Kordofan is important because it is "central, indeed, to good relations between North and South".

Rice further reaffirmed the position of its country urging to allow humanitarian access to the rebel held areas, a cease fire arrangement, and the resumption of direct political discussions between Sudanese government and SLPM- North rebels.