Sunday, October 27, 2013

African Union says Sudan barred team from Abyei

African Union says Sudan barred team from Abyei

3 hrs ago

Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir (left) and South Sudan's President Salva Kiir at Juba airport on October 22, 2013

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Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir (left) and South Sudan's President Salva Kiir at Juba airport on October 22, 2013 (AFP Photo

Addis Ababa (AFP) - The African Union on Sunday accused the Sudan government of preventing an AU delegation from visiting Abyei following talks that failed to make progress on the flashpoint region.

The AU "expresses its deep disappointment and regret that it was unable to undertake the visit (Saturday and Sunday)", it said, accusing Khartoum of postponing it "for contrived security reasons".

The AU's Council for Peace and Security lamented the "obstruction" to its mission and "reiterates its deep concern at the prevailing situation in Abyei," it said in a statement posted on the Internet.

The AU "stresses the need for active and continued African involvement" in resolving the dispute, it said.

A Sudanese foreign ministry spokesman contacted in Khartoum declined to comment on the statement.

The wrangle over Abyei is one of the main unresolved disputes following the 2005 peace agreement between Sudan and South Sudan which ended a civil war and led to the independence of South Sudan.

Abyei was meant to vote on whether to be part of Sudan or South Sudan in January 2011 -- the same day Juba voted overwhelmingly to split from the north -- as part of the peace accord.

But that referendum has been repeatedly stalled, with residents now threatening to press ahead and organise their own vote.

The AU, which is mediating in the dispute, was initially headed to Abyei on Tuesday and Wednesday but put off the trip pending the outcome of talks between the Sudanese and South Sudanese presidents, Omar al-Bashir and Salva Kiir.

The talks on Tuesday failed to make any progress on Abyei, though the two leaders also discussed issues such as opening up border posts to residents and traders, the transportation of South Sudan's oil through Sudanese pipelines, as well as security and trade and economic ties.

Bashir and Kiir had met for talks in Sudan last month, while Bashir last visited South Sudan in April, his first visit since independence and which followed a furious row over the shutdown of crucial oil exports as well as bloody border battles last year.

When South Sudan split away, it took with it oil fields accounting for 75 percent of the reserves -- with production totalling some 470,000 barrels per day -- that Sudan used to call its own.

Landlocked South Sudan complained that the north was demanding too much to use its pipelines and port facilities, and the shutdown cost both countries billions of dollars.

Battles along the two nations' un-demarcated border last year involving warplanes and troops aggravated the situation and raised fears of a return to the level of violence seen in the 1983-2005 civil war.

International pressure eventually reined the two sides back in, with leaders signing a raft of deals, most of which however are yet to be implemented.

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