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UN's Ban pleads for Sudan, S.Sudan to leave Abyei
April 4, 2012 / 7:35 PM / 6 years ago

UN's Ban pleads for Sudan, S.Sudan to leave Abyei

* South Sudan seceded from Sudan last year

* Analysts fear full-blown Sudan-South Sudan war

By Michelle Nichols

UNITED NATIONS, April 4 (Reuters) - U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon pleaded with Sudan and South Sudan on Wednesday to withdraw troops and police from the disputed Abyei region amid international fears that repeated border clashes between the East African neighbors could escalate to war.

Sudan and South Sudan both claim Abyei, a border region containing fertile grazing land, which Khartoum took in May last year - triggering the exodus of tens of thousands of civilians - after a southern attack on an army convoy.

“The continued presence of unauthorized security forces within the Abyei area is fundamentally at odds with the spirit of constructive dialogue and mutual accommodation,” U.N. Secretary-General Ban said in a report to the U.N. Security Council on the situation in the Abyei over the past two months.

“I would like once again to appeal to the government of Sudan and the government of South Sudan to withdraw their armed forces and police from the Abyei area,” he said in the report.

South Sudan seceded from Sudan in July, six months after a referendum agreed under a 2005 peace deal that ended decades of civil war that killed more than 2 million people. Such a vote was originally also planned in Abyei but was never held as both sides have been unable to agree on who can participate.

There are 3,800 U.N. peacekeepers in Abyei after the Security Council authorized the deployment in June last year.

Complicating the fragile security situation in Abyei during the past two months has been the migration south of more than 110,000 Misseriya nomads driving more than 2 million cattle and 112,000 sheep and goats.

Ban said limited access to water and grazing land led to some tension between the nomads and the South Sudan police, and separately between the nomads and returning Ngok Dinka people, but the only casualties were 11 Misseriya cattle.

Ban’s report on Abyei comes amid increased border clashes between Sudan and South Sudan that prompted a U.N. Security Council statement last week expressing alarm and urging both sides to halt military operations.

Sudan and South Sudan blamed each other for the fighting. South Sudan said Sudan launched air strikes on some of its major oilfields. Sudan denied launching air strikes but said its ground forces had attacked southern artillery positions which had fired at the disputed oil-producing area of Heglig.

Distrust runs deep between the neighbors, who are at loggerheads over the position of their shared border and how much the landlocked south should pay to transport its oil through Sudan.

Analysts have long said tensions between the countries could erupt into a full-blown war and disrupt the surrounding region, which includes some of Africa’s most promising economies.

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