The death toll is rising in Sudan's disputed Abyei region as troops of the Sudanese Armed Forces dig in after seizing a key city there. Tens of thousands of people have fled the fighting, which is casting a pall over South Sudan's final steps toward independence next month. More than that, the actions taken by the Government of Sudan are blatant violations of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and threaten to undermine the commitment that leaders of both Sudan and South Sudan made to avoid a return to a devastating war that wracked the region for more than a decade.
The trouble began May 19 when Southern forces attacked a company of SAF troops accompanied by United Nations peacekeepers and lawfully operating in an area jointly administered by the two governments. SAF troops counterattacked in large force, seizing and occupying Abyei town and declaring that the joint Abyei Administration was dissolved. The actions were disproportionate and irresponsible and the United States condemns them.
We call on the SAF to immediately cease all offensive operations in Abyei and withdraw its forces from the region. Failure to do so could set back the process of normalizing relations between our two countries and inhibit the international community's ability to move forward on issues critical to Sudan's future, such as economic aid and debt relief.
President Bashir and First Vice President Kiir should meet immediately and agree on a way to restore calm, uphold the CPA and recommit to a negotiated political settlement on Abyei's future political status. We are commited to working with all the parties to resolve the Abyei issue expeditiously and peacefully.