Thank you, Mr. President. I also want to thank SRSG Menkerios and President Mkapa for their important briefings today.
This is a historic moment. And I join President Obama in congratulating the people and leaders of Sudan for the successful completion of voting on the referendum on independence. The people of Southern Sudan, after decades of war and more than two million killed, have cast their votes peacefully and expressed their will.
The promise of self determination was made to the Southern Sudanese people in 2005. Thanks to the commitment of the people of Sudan and the support of the international community, that promise was finally fulfilled. Let us not underestimate what this referendum means to the people of Southern Sudan. We have all heard reports of long lines forming overnight on January 8th, and of people standing in line for hours to vote. We have even heard of a case in which a river ferry broke down, and voters jumped into the presumably crocodile-infested river and swam across to reach the polling station.
As President Obama said after the polling closed, “The past week has given the world renewed faith in the prospect of a peaceful, prosperous future for all of the Sudanese people – a future that the American people long to see in Sudan.”
To the men and women of UNMIS: the United States commends you for your outstanding work.
Thanks to your tireless efforts, under daunting challenges and difficult circumstances, the people of Sudan have been able to take a huge step forward on the path of full implementation of the CPA, which ended a 23-year civil war. To Special Representative Menkerios, my government congratulates you. You are performing an incredibly difficult job with grace and wisdom. We thank you. We also welcome the work that the Southern Sudan Referendum Commission, the Southern Sudan Referendum Bureau, the Government of Sudan, and the Government of Southern Sudan have done to ensure that this historic referendum occurred on time, peacefully, and reflects the will of the people.
We welcome the January 16 statement from the Secretary General’s Referenda Monitoring Panel, in which the panel said it was satisfied that the referendum process “allowed the people of Southern Sudan to express their will freely.” A number of other observer missions have also already released preliminary statements. On January 17, the Carter Center called the referendum “peaceful and credible” and “broadly consistent with international standards.” The Arab League stated that the process was “in line with international standards.” The European Union Observer Mission commended a “peaceful, credible voting process, with overwhelming turnout.”
On January 16, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and the African Union called the referendum “free, fair, and credible.” We commend the work of the hundreds of international observers and thousands of domestic observers. The United States continues to urge all to respect the results of the referendum.
Of course, we must all focus on the challenging – and promising – road ahead. We urge the parties to return to the negotiating table as soon as possible to negotiate a rapid and sustainable resolution to the question of Abyei and other outstanding CPA issues.
The United States fully supports the efforts of AU High-Level Implementation Panel Chair President Thabo Mbeki to facilitate these agreements. We reiterate that any resolution regarding the future of the Abyei area must be reached with the consent of both parties, through a political settlement or a process that respects the rights and needs of those communities traditionally associated with the area.
Along with the status of Abyei, there are other outstanding issues requiring urgent attention, such border demarcation, citizenship, wealth-sharing agreements, natural resource management, the division of the national debt, security arrangements, currency arrangements, and international treaties and legal obligations, which are all equally important. We also consider peaceful, inclusive popular consultations in Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan that reflect the will of the people to be essential components of CPA implementation. We call on the parties to bring the same spirit to these negotiations as they have brought to the conduct of the referendum itself.
For all of the inspiring events in Sudan over the last week, the United States laments the loss of life in the Abyei and border region and reiterates its deep concern regarding the arrest, detention, and harassment of human rights activists and journalists by the Government of Sudan’s security forces, which prevented both an SPLM leader and an Umma Party leader from conducting television interviews. In addition, four university students were arrested in separate incidents for trying to host discussions.
We urge Council members to join us in calling on the Government of Sudan to release those who have been imprisoned unjustly, including those jailed for exercising such basic rights as freedom of speech, freedom of expression, and freedom of assembly.
As President Obama has made clear, the United States wants the leaders in Sudan to choose the path of peace and prosperity for all of the Sudanese people, and he has extended the U.S. hand in that spirit. In order for this future to be realized, however, Sudan, too, must work with the international community.
This includes cooperating with UNMIS and UNAMID to facilitate full freedom of access and movement for UN peacekeepers and for humanitarian workers.
This access is especially important given the alarming reports that Sudanese Armed Forces have burned homes and blocked civilians’ access to UNAMID in Khor Abeche, and that the Government of Sudan violated the North/South ceasefire with repeated aerial bombardments into the Kiir River Valley – in addition to the all-too-frequent reports of aerial bombardment in Jebel Mara and the Government of Sudan’s ongoing refusal to grant UNAMID patrols access to affected populations, despite the Status of Forces Agreement.
We are deeply saddened and troubled by the news that on January 13, three Bulgarian helicopter crew members contracted to the UN World Food Program were kidnapped in Darfur. We convey our condolences to their families. And we urge the Government of Sudan to do its utmost to facilitate their safe return. We recall that 40,000 residents of Darfur were displaced from their homes in December alone. Civilians continue to live under the threat of attack, and of sexual and gender-based violence. It is thus in all of our interests to continue to work to prevent genocide.
The United States again calls on the Government of Sudan to immediately halt aerial bombardments, and we condemn in the strongest possible terms attacks on civilians. Obtaining a ceasefire between the Government of Sudan and the armed movements should be the immediate objective of the peace process. The political process for a Darfur peace agreement must be reinvigorated, and all relevant parties must come back to the negotiating table.
As we discussed during consultations on Sudan on January 6, the unity shown by this Council has gone a long ways towards supporting the parties as they have stayed on the path of peace. We need to continue to watch closely as the parties continue to implement the CPA. As progress is made, we should welcome it and offer continued encouragement. But, just as importantly, we need to be prepared to insist upon and to support full and final implementation of the CPA on such issues as protection of minorities and rejection of proxy militias, and other threats to peace and security in Sudan.
Thank you, Mr. President.
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