Sudan army to pull out of Abyei

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IOL pic jun3 sudan abyei peacekeepers

Reuters

File Photo - A UN peacekeeping mission comprised of Ethiopian troops is in charge of maintaining security.

Khartoum -

Sudan's army will begin pulling out of the contested region of Abyei from Tuesday, as demanded by the United Nations, the army spokesman said.

“We will start tomorrow and we will invite journalists to see this redeployment,” Sawarmi Khaled Saad said in a statement to reporters.

The pullout, ending a year-long occupation, will begin on the same day negotiators from Sudan and South Sudan are to meet in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa to resume talks led by African Union mediator Thabo Mbeki.

Saad said Mbeki asked Khartoum to withdraw its forces from the area.

“Sudan decided to redeploy the troops out of Abyei area to offer a good environment for the talks,” he said, adding that Khartoum requested a “guarantee” that the area is part of its territory.

After Sudan and South Sudan came to the brink of all-out war in April, the UN Security Council called on them to cease hostilities along their disputed border and to resume talks on a number of issues including the status of Abyei.

Saad did not say how many troops are in Abyei, but all of them will leave.

The army's announcement came after former US president Jimmy Carter said on Sunday night, after meeting President Omar al-Bashir, that Sudan was ready to pull its soldiers from Abyei.

“He has notified the negotiators he's ready to withdraw troops from Abyei, which we believe is a major step forward,” Carter told reporters after he and Algeria's former foreign minister Lakhdar Brahimi held talks with Bashir.

They were representing The Elders, a group of global leaders chaired by Nobel peace laureate Desmond Tutu.

The United Nations May 2 resolution said both sides had to pull their forces out of Abyei by May 16.

South Sudan complied, withdrawing police who were based there, but Sudan had said it would withdraw only after a joint administrative body is established.

Asked whether Bashir had revised that condition, Carter said:

“He did not express to us any reservations or provisos.”

South Sudan has said Khartoum was blocking the creation of the joint administration.

Bashir told the two Elders that he notified Mbeki of his readiness to withdraw his forces.

Carter said “there are very few troops left there.”

Abyei was to have held a referendum in January 2011 on whether it belonged with the north or South, but that ballot was stalled over disagreement on who could vote.

After a similar ballot, South Sudan separated last July under a 2005 peace deal that ended 22 years of civil war.

But critical issues including Abyei were unresolved at separation. - Sapa-AFP


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