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US senator on Sudan: 'close to the precipice of war'

23 may 2011, 13:50
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Children and women  at Mandela camp for displaced southern Sudanese, 30 kms south of Khartoum, Sudan. ©AFP
Children and women at Mandela camp for displaced southern Sudanese, 30 kms south of Khartoum, Sudan. ©AFP
US Senator John Kerry said late Sunday that Sudan stands "ominously close to the precipice of war" and called on "both sides to reduce tensions," AFP reports.

Kerry, chairman of the influential Foreign Relations Committee, said the African nation faces a "test of leadership."

"At this very moment, Sudan stands ominously close to the precipice of war," he said in a statement. "Both sides must put an end to the recent provocations and quickly get back on course before the situation deteriorates any further."

Kerry called for the withdrawal of "all unauthorized forces out of Abyei," strengthening the UN peacekeeping forces in Abyei, and statements from both sides "to reduce tensions, assume responsibility, and pledge a renewed commitment to the peace process."

Northern troops seized control of most of Abyei district on Sudan's north-south border on Sunday, Khartoum said, as the south accused it of an "illegal invasion" that threatens thousands of civilians.

The seizure, coming in the run-up to international recognition of the south's independence in July, was condemned by world powers as a threat to peace between Sudan's north and south.

Abyei was granted special status under the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement that ended 22 years of devastating civil war between north and south, and it requires both sides to keep their troops out until a vote on its future.

"The cumulative impact of this series of events threatens the lives of those on the ground, the peaceful separation between North and South, and any of Khartoum's hopes for a new relationship with the United States," Kerry said.

"This is a moment both sides will long regret if they allow events to spiral out of control."

Kerry also called for the resumption of direct talks "between President Bashir and President Kiir to resolve the current crisis but also to continue critical negotiations to complete the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and to ensure peaceful separation for South Sudan on July 9th."

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