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No progress on Abyei despite improvement of Sudan- South Sudan relations: UN official

October 25, 2019 (KHARTOUM) - Sudan and South Sudan have failed to make progress in to settle the status of the disputed area of Abyei despite the unprecedented improvement of bilateral relations between the two neighbours, after the regime change in Khartoum, said the head of the United Nation peacekeeping department.

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The head of the UN peacekeeping mission, Jean-Pierre Lacroix speaks to reporters in Juba, August 1, 2017 (UN photo)

In a briefing to the UN Security Council on Thursday 24 October, Jean Pierre Lacroix detailed the recent progress achieved by the two countries with the view to resolve the outstanding border disputes and to enhance joint cooperation.

"These positive developments have not been extended to the settlement of the final status of Abyei," Lacroix said as he submitted a report from the Secretary-General on the situation in Abyei and demanded to extend the mandate of the United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA).

"No meetings of the Abyei Joint Oversight Committee has taken place since November 2017. No progress has been made in the establishment of joint governance institutions, including the police, the court, and the corrections, either" he added.

With regard to the increasing criminality in the area due to the lack of a joint police force, the international diplomat said that Khartoum showed a willingness to discuss the establishment of the Abyei Police Service but Juba did not respond to this imitative.

"This is of paramount concern, since the general security situation in Abyei remains fragile, with persisting intercommunal tensions, an increase in criminality, and the sporadic presence of armed," he said.

Abyei is the only disputed area for which Sudanese government and the SPLM dedicated a chapter the Comprehensive Peace Agreement of 2005 providing that a referendum would be held to determine its future in 2011 when South Sudanese vote on the remain or leave the greater Sudan.

However, the two parties failed to reach an agreement on who is eligible to take part in this referendum. Also, the Ngok Dinka of Abyei refused later on the formation of the local institutions saying the most important should be to fix the future of the area.

Last year, the United Nations proposed to appoint a civilian deputy head of UNISFA to be tasked with the administration and security of the Abyei Area but Sudan objected saying that such an appointment would be inconsistent with the 2011 Agreement.

Under international law, Abyei is still under Sudan’s sovereignty.