LONDON (Reuters) - Sudan’s President Omar Hassan al-Bashir said on Monday that the disputed Abyei border region could be a source of conflict with newly independent South Sudan if agreements are not respected.
Bashir told the BBC’s Hardtalk program he wanted U.N. peacekeepers to leave but welcomed a U.S.-drafted resolution, unanimously approved by the U.N. Security Council last month, to deploy 4,200 Ethiopian troops to Abyei for six months.
“The Ethiopians have a mandate to keep peace in the zone, so we welcome the Ethiopian troops,” he said, speaking through an interpreter.
“Both of us welcome them, because they are capable of doing their job, unlike the current troops who have failed to keep peace in this zone.”
Khartoum’s forces seized Abyei with tanks and troops on May 21, causing tens of thousands of people to flee and drawing an international outcry.
South Sudan seceded from the north on Saturday but the countries have yet to agree on who owns Abyei, stirring fears of renewed conflict.
“We will redeploy our troops outside Abyei as soon as the Ethiopians arrive,” Bashir said.
North and south are yet to agree on important issues, including the line of the border, the ownership of Abyei and how they will handle oil revenues, the lifeblood of both economies.
Asked if the Abyei dispute could lead to war between the two countries, he said: “We divided Sudan for peace and we are keen on preserving peace.
“There’s a protocol on Abyei — a protocol that governs Abyei if there’s a peaceful solution. But in the past, we were forced to fight when they (the south) tried to impose a new reality.”
When asked if he bore responsibility for the loss of south Sudan, Bashir replied “definitely,” but said it was a price worth paying for peace.
Mostly Muslim Sudan fought rebels in the south, where most follow Christianity and traditional beliefs, for all but a few years from the 1950s in civil wars fueled by ethnicity, religion, oil and ideology.
Writing by Karolina Tagaris; Editing by Louise Ireland