The United States on Thursday criticized Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir for insisting that his government in Khartoum will not recognize South Sudan’s independence if it claims the disputed oil-rich Abyei region as part of its territory.
“Those comments are not helpful at all, and they only serve to inflame and heighten tensions. It is important that both sides – those in Khartoum and those in Juba – focus intensely on trying to resolve the key issues that have not been completed under the CPA,” US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson told reporters in Uganda on Thursday.
“Abyei is one of them. This must be done before July 9. And it important that President Bashir and the President of South Sudan, Salva Kiir, continue to meet, negotiate, to resolve these issues as quickly as possible,” Carson added.
Carson’s remarks came a day after Bashir said while addressing a political rally Fula, a town in north Sudan’s key oil-producing state of South Kordofan, that Abyei would remain a part of north Sudan after the south secedes in July. That speech was broadcast live on state television.
“Abyei is located in north Sudan and will remain in north Sudan,” Bashir said in his speech. “If they put Abyei in the constitution of the new state of south Sudan, we will not recognize the new state.”
Bashir’s remarks came three months after voters in south Sudan voted overwhelmingly in favor of separation from the north in the January referendum, which was in line with a 2005 peace agreement that ended 22 years of civil war between the Arab North and the Christian and animist South.