Published On: Fri, Jul 8th, 2011

UN approves 7,000 peacekeepers for South Sudan

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The U.N. Security Council has approved a new peacekeeping force for South Sudan on the eve of its independence.

The council voted unanimously Friday to deploy up to 7,000 military personnel and 900 international police to the world’s newest nation with a mandate to keep peace and help promote development.
The council acted ahead of independence celebrations on Saturday, when the mainly ethnic African south officially breaks away from the Arab-dominated north.

Image: Map of Sudan

South Sudan’s independence is the culmination of a 2005 peace deal that ended more than two decades of civil war. There are fears the conflict could be re-ignited because troops from the north and south are facing off in the contested oil-rich border region of Abyei.

The U.N. has had a 10,400-strong peacekeeping force, known as UNMIS, monitoring implementation of the 2005 north-south agreement, which operates on both sides of the border. Its mandate expires Saturday and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon proposed a three-month extension but the Khartoum government rejected any extension and said it wanted all U.N. troops out of the north.
Diplomats said the five permanent Security Council nations — the U.S., Russia, China, Britain and France — jointly asked the Sudanese government earlier this week to allow a U.N. presence in the north after South Sudan breaks away.
U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice, who will be leading the American delegation to South Sudan’s independence ceremonies, said Thursday in Washington that many council members are trying to persuade Sudan’s leaders “that it is not in their interest that the U.N. be compelled to leave abruptly or prematurely” while key issues from the 2005 agreement remain unresolved and “a volatile and grave humanitarian situation” exists in Southern Kordofan and possibly neighboring Blue Nile state.
“We will continue to do what we can to underscore to Khartoum that it is in their interests and the interests of the region that they not take this step,” Rice said. “But they seem thus far to be quite determined, and this poses a great deal of worry for the security of people in Southern Kordofan, for the common border, for humanitarian access and a number of other important issues.”
Haile Menkerios, the top U.N. envoy in Sudan, said Thursday in Juba that the “liquidation” of UNMIS will start on July 10. Diplomats said between 2,500-3,000 U.N. peacekeepers are currently based in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile where fighting continues.
“U.N. engagement in Sudan will, however, continue,” Menkerios said. “The United Nations will continue its support to the government of Sudan, the government of South Sudan and to the people of Sudan as a whole through its agencies, funds and programs, a new mission in South Sudan and a new mission in Abyei.”
Leaders from the north and south signed an agreement on June 20 to demilitarize Abyei and allow and Ethiopian peacekeeping force to move and a week later the Security Council authorized the deployment of 4,200 Ethiopian troops in Abyei for six months.
One unresolved issue is future responsibility for monitoring the north-south border.
The governments of both Sudans signed an agreement on border security on June 29 and the draft resolution calls on the parties to propose arrangements for border monitoring by July 20. If they fail to do so, the resolution requests the new U.N. mission in South Sudan “to observe and report on any flow of personnel, arms and related materiel across the border with Sudan.”

Source: msnbc

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