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Four years have passed since factions in the North and South of Sudan ended a long civil war, but a lasting settlement to the conflict remains elusive. One of many sticking points in implementing the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement is control of Abyei, an oil-rich province in central Sudan claimed by both the central government and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement. An international tribunal is expected to offer its opinion on the matter in the next few days, and it is hoped all parties will see the ruling as an opportunity to move forward on the larger issues at hand.
The 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement, the 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. Control of Abyei could be the linchpin of an independent South, and troops have clashed there repeatedly since the CPA was signed.
An international court of arbitration in the Netherlands is expected to rule on the dispute on or about July 22. 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 United States calls on all parties to begin now to prepare for implementing the court's decision and to take the necessary steps to eliminate opportunities for further violence in the region. While members of the international community will be on hand in Abyei when the ruling is announced and to assist in its implementation, ultimately it is the responsibility of the two parties to ensure lasting peace, stability and security in the region.