Greetings from Khartoum! With January 9, 2011 fast approaching, last week I returned to Sudan to urge the parties to make progress on arrangements to ensure a peaceful future for the Sudanese people.
While much work remains, the arrival of referendum materials in Sudan last week was a step forward in preparations for the vote on January 9. I had the pleasure of participating in a ceremony on Friday where international partners formally presented referendum materials to Sudanese officials. The materials were procured by the United Nations Development Programme and the International Foundation for Electoral Systems with the financial support of the U.S. Agency for International Development.
During the weekend I had a productive conversation with Southern Sudan Referendum Commission Chairman Khalil on the status of preparations for the Southern Sudan referendum. Progress continues to be made. The Southern Sudan Referendum Commission has finalized its timeline, which will allow voter registration to begin on November 15 and the referendum to take place on January 9. And the parties continue to discuss how to resolve the Abyei issue in the context of a broader dialogue.
This week, our team also continues to work with President Thabo Mbeki, Chairman of the AU High Level Implementation Panel, who is facilitating the discussions between the parties. We are encouraged that the parties are engaging bilaterally and with Chairman Mbeki, as they work to resolve outstanding issues of the CPA and develop arrangements for their relationship after the CPA interim period ends in July 2011.
In the lead-up to the referendum, we will provide weekly updates on the parties' progress. I encourage you to visit our webpage for more details.