WASHINGTON — The United States on Friday called on south Sudan to “account” for an assault on northern Sudanese troops as they were escorted by UN peacekeepers in the flashpoint Abyei border district.
“The United States deplores a reported attack yesterday of southern forces on a UN convoy that was transporting a company of Sudanese armed forces Joint Integrated Units in Abyei,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner said.
Toner told reporters the attack “is in direct violation” of the agreement signed by the North and South in January in the South Kordofan state capital of Kadugli in January to “remove all unauthorized forces” from Abyei.
“We urge the government of southern Sudan to account for this attack, take steps to demonstrate its commitment to implement the Kadugli agreement, and ensure that its forces demonstrate restraint,” Toner said.
The Kadugli deal called on all forces to withdraw from the bitterly disputed region except the special Joint Integrated Units (JIUs) of northern and southern personnel, both army and police, alongside UN peacekeepers.
A spokesman for the north’s Sudan Armed Forces (SAF), Sawarmi Khaled Saad, accused the south’s Sudan People?s Liberation Army (SPLA) of attacking its troops.
“Our forces and UN troops came under attack by the SPLA in Abyei area,” the official SUNA news agency quoting Saad as saying. “There are substantial losses.”
The SPLA denied responsibility.
Toner said the US government is also “deeply concerned by reports of retaliatory actions by the Sudanese armed forces, including reports of bombing two villages.”
The United States “call upon the (northern-based) Sudanese government and its forces to refrain from any other offensive actions,” he said.
“We call upon both sides to stop all military actions in Abyei and proceed to implementing the Kadugli agreement for the withdrawal of all unauthorized forces in Abyei,” Toner said.
“Political leaders on both sides must take responsibility now to ensure this situation does not escalate into wider crisis.”
Abyei’s future is the most sensitive of a raft of issues that the two sides are struggling to reach agreement on before the south is recognized as an independent state in July.