South Sudan’s Kiir Meets Mbeki To Discuss Failed Abyei Talks

South Africa’s former President, Thabo Mbeki on Friday held a high level meeting with South Sudan’s President, Salva Kiir Mayardit to discuss how to salvage the recently failed talks on the conduct of Abyei referendum.

The oil-rich region of Abyei is due to vote on whether it wishes to remain in the north or join what could be a newly independent south Sudan, which will hold a referendum simultaneously on whether it wishes to secede.

The talks in Addis Ababa, held between delegates from the south’s ruling Sudan’s Peoples Liberation Movement (SPLM) and the Khartoum-based National Congress Party (NCP) broke up it earlier this month with both parties blaming each other.

In a media briefing prior to the meeting, Mbeki said a high level delegation from the African Union (AU) will mediate the next phase of the negotiations, although he did not say when they were likely to resume.

“For now, it’s too early to speculate on when the talks on Abyei will resume. The schedule will depend on the outcome of the ongoing consultative meetings with the two parties to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement,” Mbeki told journalists in Juba.

The South African President said he remains optimistic that the negotiations aiming to provide a framework to guide the conduct of a referendum in the oil-rich region will still progress as planned.

Mbeki, who is also due to hold a similar meeting with President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, appealed for calm among the southern population and all stakeholders ahead of the January referendum on possible independence of south Sudan.

The referendum is a key part of Sudan’s 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) between the north and south, ending a war in which 2 million people are believed to have died and about 4 million displaced.

Negotiations stalled over the National Congress Party’s demand that the Misseriya tribe who enter Abyei for 3-4 months a year to find pasture land for their cattle.

The SPLM have rejected this, as in the CPA only the Dinka Ngok are mentioned as being eligible to vote.

The two sides have also not been able to agree on the formation of the Abyei referendum commission. The borders of the region still need to be demarcated despite a ruling from the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague.

On Thursday President Kiir met with Christian Bader, the new Consul General of France to the autonomous region.

Bader said in a communiqué, that France continues to closely follow events within Sudan in the run-up to the 2011 referendum.

He said his country will provide support to the southern population to ensure that the January referendum is conducted in a free, fair and transparent manner that reflects the will of the people.

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