Special Envoy to Sudan Scott Gration, Assistant Secretary Johnnie Carson, and National Security Council Senior Director for Multilateral Affairs Samantha Power participated in a special briefing at the Washington Foreign Press Center this morning to highlight U.S. diplomatic efforts on Sudan. During his remarks, Special Envoy Gration highlighted the actions that the parties need to take to ensure that peaceful referenda that reflect the will of the Sudanese people take place on time in January.
He said, "with just 79 days remaining until January 9th -- that's the day when the Southern Sudanese are scheduled to hold the referendum on self-determination -- there is just no more time to waste. Between now and the start of registration in mid-November, the Southern Sudanese Referendum Commission must finalize voter registration procedures, it must hire and train and deploy over 10,000 registration workers. The voter registration materials, which should be delivered into Sudan in the next few days, must be distributed to all the registration sites. In addition, domestic and international monitors must be positioned to oversee this process, to guard against manipulation.
"At the same time, the parties have to resolve other CPA issues: border demarcation and Abyei. The Abyei referendum has been a big challenge for both parties. While it is still scheduled to take place on the 9th of January, the parties have so far been unable to agree on who should be eligible to vote in this referendum. To help resolve this problem, the parties asked the United States to facilitate talks on Abyei for two days in New York in late September. These talks continued for another nine days in Addis Ababa in early October.
"During these negotiations, the parties reached consensus on a number of important issues but ultimately concluded that the Abyei issue would have to be decided as part of a broader set of issues that include all the unresolved CPA and post-CPA issues. The next round of talks is scheduled to begin at the end of this month in Ethiopia and they'll be convened by President Thabo Mbeki, the chairman of the African Union's High-Level Implementation Panel.
"The CPA parties have expressed a strong desire for the United States to participate in these talks, and we will be there. With time running out, the parties must make a strategic commitment to work together to avoid war, to achieve a lasting peace. The parties must be prepared to come to Addis with an attitude of compromise to reach a final agreement on these remaining tough issues. The entire world is watching and will make judgments based on how the parties approach these talks, on how they act in the next couple months. We urge both the NCP and the SPLM to take necessary efforts to cooperate and to demonstrate good faith.
"Specifically, we'll be watching the Government of Sudan to ensure they transfer necessary funds to the Southern Sudan Referendum Commission, that they grant required visas to international monitors and aid workers, that they protect the Southerners who are now living in the North. President Obama is serious about moving toward better relations with Sudan. We have presented both parties with the steps that we are prepared to take in response to concrete achievements both in CPA implementation and in Darfur. These steps include shifting our licensing regulations to allow more trade and investment in Sudan, exchanging ambassadors, supporting debt relief, and ultimately removing the foreign assistance restrictions and lifting economic sanctions.
"Getting to full normalization will require not only progress on the CPA, but also in the comprehensive peace agreement in Darfur. The President is equally committed to ending the conflict in Darfur as he is to full implementation of the CPA. We continue to support the Doha process by our involvement there and we continue to support the efforts of UN peacekeepers and the international humanitarian organizations as they seek to improve security and living conditions for those in Darfur. We call upon all the armed movements, including those that are now absent from Doha, to engage in a peaceful negotiation. There can be no peace in Sudan without peace in Darfur.
"As you can see, much remains to be done in the next few months by both parties, but the United States is committed to helping Sudan achieve a lasting peace, to helping Sudan get that stable and secure and prosperous future that the Sudanese people need and that they deserve."