Sudan UN welcomes agreement to withdraw forces from Abyei area

The United Nations peacekeeping mission in Sudan (UNMIS) has welcomed the commitment of the northern and southern sides to withdraw their forces from Abyei and to immediately deploy combined teams to the disputed area to provide security.Participants in the Abyei Joint Technical Committee, which is facilitated by UNMIS, agreed at a meeting yesterday to start the withdrawal of all unauthorized forces and the deployment of joint integrated units (JIUs) – made up of personnel from both sides – by tomorrow and to finish the process by 17 May.The two sides agreed that they will work to create a more conducive environment by de-escalating tensions and speaking to communities on the ground about the implementation of recent peace agreements aimed at ending the violence in the Abyei area.Deadly clashes have claimed dozens of lives since the start of the year, when a referendum on Abyei’s status that was supposed to have been held never took place amid disagreement on voter eligibility.Southern Sudan will secede from the rest of the country in July as a result of a separate referendum held in January and both north and south claim Abyei.Major General Moses Bisong Obi, the Force Commander of UNMIS, said yesterday’s meeting reflected the commitment of the two sides towards easing tensions.“There was goodwill from both sides and we hope to follow up on this spirit,” he said.The two sides also agreed to ensure freedom of access for UNMIS contingents who are deployed in the area, which is contested by both north and south.The committee was established last month to oversee the implementation of two separate peace agreements reached earlier this year. 9 May 2011The United Nations peacekeeping mission in Sudan (UNMIS) has welcomed the commitment of the northern and southern sides to withdraw their forces from Abyei and to immediately deploy combined teams to the disputed area to provide security.

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