Sudan is at a critical point in its quest for peace and security, and time for action is growing short.
Under the 2005 accord that ended Africa's longest civil war, votes are to be held in January to determine the political future of the oil-rich area of Abyei in central Sudan and whether Southern Sudan becomes independent. If the process were to collapse and fighting renewed, the results would be devastating for both the Sudanese people and the entire region.
In discussions with Sudanese leaders at the United Nations in September, President Barack Obama laid out two clear paths as the referendums approach. A path of cooperation and outreach leads to Sudan's regaining its appropriate place in the international community; a path of intransigence and repression will produce further isolation.
In further discussions since then, the U.S. has laid out the steps it is willing to take to encourage the process. To this end, and at the request of Sudan's leaders, we have stated that we will move up our readiness to rescind Sudan's designation as a state sponsor of terrorism if the parties prepare for and conduct a peaceful referendum on the status of the South; that they respect the results of that vote; and if they implement all relevant political agreements when the peace accord expires next July.
The United States is committed to working toward a secure and prosperous future for all of the Sudanese people, but the Government of Sudan must live up to its commitments. We hope that the Sudanese government will choose the path of partnership that leads to normalization of relations, and have made clear the steps it must take for that to happen. The parties need to make key decisions and take swift action. It is now up to them to recommit themselves to the work at hand to ensure that a peaceful vote that reflects the will of the people takes place on time in January.