Sudan, South Sudan start withdrawal from zone in Abyei

Sudan, South Sudan start withdrawal from zone in Abyei
# 27 March 2013 00:27 (UTC +04:00)

Baku-APA. The United Nations peacekeeping force in the oil-rich Abyei area, which is contested by South Sudan and Sudan, has completed its first verification mission to make sure that troops from both governments pull out of the demilitarized border zone, UN officials said here Tuesday, APA reports quoting XÄ°nhua.

"This first joint verification mission by Sudan and South Sudan is an important first step toward implementing all security arrangements between the two countries," said Herve Ladsous, UN Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations.

"There's more to do, and it is essential for long-term peace in the region that both countries build on this success," Ladsous said.

The final status of Abyei, a disputed region straddling the border between Sudan and South Sudan, has yet to be determined. It is one of the outstanding issues of the so-called Comprehensive Peace Agreement which helped bring an end to the conflict between Sudan and South Sudan, before the latter's independence in July 2011.

Previously, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged both countries to peacefully work towards resolving the matter.

The UN Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) verified on Monday that during its mission on March 23 to Tishwin and the following day to Kiir Adem, which lies inside a 65-kilometer-wide strip of land known as the Mile 14 area, "there were no armed forces from either side," he said.

"Both parties have begun to withdraw from the Safety Demilitarized Border Zone, which they are obliged to complete by 5 April," Ladsous added.

UNISFA will verify the completion of the withdrawal by April 12.

The Security Council established UNISFA in June 2011 following an outbreak of violence after Sudanese troops took control of Abyei, displacing tens of thousands of people in the weeks before South Sudan became independent after seceding from Sudan.

In December 2011, the Security Council expanded UNISFA's mandate to include tasks to support a Joint Border Verification and Monitoring Mechanism, which consists of both sides and is tasked with monitoring the security situation in the Safe Demilitarized Border Zone.

After months of delays, the governments agreed earlier this month to activate the mechanism and withdraw their forces from the zone.

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