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It's been 4 years since factions in the North and South of Sudan ended their long civil war with a peace agreement, but disagreements over its implementation threaten to drag the troubled nation back into conflict. The stakes are enormous for the Sudanese people and the entire region, and it is hoped that the parties can recommit themselves to reaching final agreement to complete terms of the deal.
At a conference in Washington June 23, the United States and members of the international community reaffirmed their total support for the effort to achieve full implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, or CPA, particularly with 2010 national elections and the 2011 referendum for secession of the South and Abyei on the horizon. "We are facing some very important milestones in the near future. They will set the foundation, for better or worse, for the very future of Sudan," U.S. Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg told representatives attending the conference.
The 2005 CPA gave people in Southern Sudan religious and political autonomy and a role in a Sudanese unity government until 2011, when a referendum is to be held to determine if the region gains complete independence.
A major sticking point has developed over control of Abyei province. This oil-rich region in central Sudan is claimed by both the Government of Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, whose troops have clashed there repeatedly since the CPA was signed. Problems have also developed over a national census aimed at providing benchmark information for future power sharing and division of resources.
An international court of arbitration in the Netherlands is expected to rule on the dispute over Abyei soon. If both sides accept the court's finding on control of the area, it would be a major step toward setting the key North-South boundary and a reaffirmation of the parties’ seriousness about maintaining the country’s stability and preventing a return to wider conflict. The parties could then move on to settling other issues in the CPA. The U.S. stands ready to assist this process and encourages all parties to ensure that the peace agreement is carried through.