The United States welcomes the meeting between the presidents of Sudan and South Sudan that took place in Addis Ababa last weekend and the recommitment to the unconditional implementation of the September 27, 2012 agreements. The parties must now finally move from rhetoric to action by clearly implementing the agreements reached in Addis Ababa without further delay.
The parties now have agreement on a plan and a timetable for implementing the Safe Demilitarized Border Zone. Now, at the upcoming Political—Joint Political and Security Mechanism meeting on January 14, the two governments, Sudan and South Sudan, must ensure that their respective armed forces immediately withdraw and deploy the Joint Border Verification Monitoring Mechanism without delay.
We also note the agreement between the parties to instruct the Abyei Joint Oversight Committee to urgently constitute the Abyei Area administration, council, and police service.
Resolution of Abyei’s final status is critical to promoting sustainable peace. We share the assessment of the African Union Peace and Security Council that the AU High-Level Implementation Panel’s September 21 proposal for Abyei still provides a fair, equitable, and workable solution. This proposal provides for Abyei’s continuing special status as a bridge between the two countries with guaranteed political and economic rights for both the Ngok Dinka peoples and the Misseriya, whatever the outcome of the referendum.
We remain deeply concerned by the continued deterioration of the humanitarian situation in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile, and we received a briefing about that. We’re also deeply concerned about the ongoing aerial bombardments by the Sudanese Armed Forces, including in civilian areas. The Security Council must work collectively now to press for immediate and unfettered humanitarian access—something for which the United States has been working for many months—particularly in the Two Areas, where the humanitarian emergency has been acute for well over a year.
The Tripartite Memorandum of Understanding with the Government of Sudan for emergency humanitarian relief expired late last year, and there are still no plans to jumpstart much needed international humanitarian assistance, even as food security remains at crisis levels in many parts of the Two Areas. We urge the two parties to conduct urgent talks on humanitarian access, a ceasefire, and a political resolution of their conflict.
I’m happy to take a few questions.
Reporter: Madame Ambassador, John Ging was out here before you were and painted a very grim picture about people dying, especially in South Kordofan and Blue Nile. I mean, the two leaders met last weekend. What does calling for urgent talks, again, going to do? I mean, are there any other options for getting food and medical aid to these people?
Ambassador Rice: Well, Edie, understand there are two different things here. The United States has been championing the urgency of credible humanitarian access in the Two Areas for over a year now. And we ourselves have taken important steps on a national basis to step up our efforts to provide much-needed assistance to those in critical need.
But, ultimately, for there to be the kind of access that’s necessary to support the people of the Two Areas, there has to be full access granted by the Government of Sudan and, indeed, by the SPLM-North and a halt to the aerial bombardments, which are causing grave risk to civilians and lots of casualties, as well as to other attacks by the SPLM-North on civilian areas.
But the talks that were in Addis were not really on the subject of the Two Areas. Because those were talks between South Sudan and Khartoum, the Government of Sudan, about the agreements that they reached on September 27. The talks that I was urging actually occur are those between the SPLM-North, the rebel group within Sudan, and the government in Khartoum. They’re the ones that signed the Tripartite Agreement. They’re the ones that also, under resolution 2046, are obliged to resolve not only the humanitarian situation but work towards a cessation of violence as well as a lasting political solution to what is an internal issue inside of Sudan but, obviously, that has involved at different times the army and the government of the South.
Reporter: Ambassador, Mr. Ging said he appealed to the Security Council for help to get this access for the humanitarian agencies. What do you envision the Security Council doing to assist him? And you said this has been going on for a year, so is it time to turn up the heat, perhaps, on the two parties?
Ambassador Rice: The United States has been long in favor of turning up the heat on the parties to ensure adequate humanitarian access. The reality is that the bulk of the reason for the lack of access has been the unwillingness of the government in Khartoum to adhere to the memorandum of understanding that they committed to. Now, there is blame on both sides, but the preponderance is and has been on the government in Khartoum. The United States is very interested in utilizing the tools in resolution 2046 to keep both sides—in this instance, the SPLM-North and the government of Khartoum—focused on the urgency of dealing with humanitarian access. But as Special Envoy Menkerios stressed during his portion of the briefing, at the end of the day, humanitarian access is unlikely to be satisfactorily granted and sustained absent a political solution, absent a cessation, and absent the two parties coming back to the table and resolving their political differences, and he emphasized the importance of focusing on that as well.
Reporter: You’ve said we’ve been talking about this for a year now at least. Does there have to be a political accord on [inaudible] access or can there be humanitarian air drops that the United States supports?
Ambassador Rice: There doesn’t have to be a political accord. We believe that there ought to be an agreement purely on humanitarian grounds, and that’s what the humanitarian agencies have been working for a long time to achieve. But as a practical matter, as both Special Envoy Menkerios and John Ging explained to the Council, the political will has been lacking, particularly on the part of Khartoum. The United States has been active in exploring a variety of methods to assist with the humanitarian situation. We have not ruled out any options, but we continue to believe that the best solution, the most sustainable solution, is one that is a consequence of agreement among the parties.
Reporter: How do you stop the aerial bombardment? Can the Council at least threaten a no-fly zone resolution?
Ambassador Rice: Well, the aerial bombardments, as you know, have been an issue not only in the Two Areas but in the South, in Darfur, and many other respects. It’s been something that the United States has longed condemned—this Council has condemned—and has been a very deadly and terrifying tool of conflict. The only party in any of these different conflicts that have the aircraft that conduct the aerial bombardment, of course, is those of Khartoum. We have long sought additional steps to insure that the violence perpetrated by the pilots and the aircraft stop but also other forms of violence. And this Council has had difficulty in coming to agreement on additional pressures to back up those calls and those resolutions.
There have been, as you know, sanctions imposed for what has transpired in Darfur, beginning with the genocide. We had a discussion subsequent to the one that I’ve described about the Council’s concern about the government of Khartoum’s repeated blocking even of members of the Panel of Experts to do the work that they’ve agreed that the Panel could do. So, we will continue to put emphasis on the necessity for access, for protection of civilians, and for accountability. That has been our focus from the very outset and will remain so.
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