U.S. Special Envoy for Sudan, Ambassador Princeton Lyman, discussed recent events in Abyei with reporters at the Department of State on May 23, 2011. Ambassador Lyman said, "As many of you know, we've had quite a situation develop over the last few days. There was an incident on May 19th in which Southern forces attacked a UN convoy that was carrying Northern soldiers to the town called Goli. And that convoy was attacked; some people were wounded, and it produced what we feel is an extremely disproportionate response by the Government of Sudan. They basically invaded Abyei and they have now taken over most of Abyei. They have taken over Abyei town. The administration has had to flee. Most of the people in Abyei town have fled south. They virtually -- the government virtually occupies Abyei.
"This is a very serious violation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, and it certainly jeopardizes the process of negotiation that had been underway to resolve the remaining issues before the South becomes independent on July 9th.
"We have been -- the U.S. has been very heavily engaged over the last several days and nights in talking to the parties, in talking to regional leaders, talking to the United Nations, to the Africa Union, and others, with several major points.
"First of all, we feel that the attack on the UN convoy was deplorable and wrong, but we feel the response of the government was disproportionate and irresponsible. We think those forces should be withdrawn; the civilian administration, which President Bashir unilaterally dissolved, should be recreated; and we have urged that President Bashir and Vice President Kiir, who is head of the Southern Sudan administration, immediately come together and calm this situation down and restore the level of cooperation they talked about after the January 9th referendum. They have not been meeting recently and so far have not been in direct touch, and we feel that's an extremely important thing for them to do.
"Now, it happens that the UN Security Council was visiting Sudan at this very time. In fact, they were scheduled to go to Abyei but, of course, could not under the circumstances. They were in Khartoum yesterday and they issued a statement which I hope you have been able to see, basically saying some of the same points that the White House said Saturday night condemning both the attack on the UN convoy but condemning in particular this overreaction and this occupation of Abyei and urging that the troops be withdrawn, that the two leaders meet immediately, that they go back to the negotiations under the CPA.
"Others have been involved. The AU chief mediator, former President Mbeki, has seen President Bashir. He's seen President -- Vice President Kiir today. And we are trying to bring this crisis under control. It's the most serious one since the attack on Abyei in 2008, and we feel that both sides must restore calm and cooperation between them.
"Ironically, this all took place just as fairly productive discussions were going on between the two parties on the economic issues between them. They had been going on in Ethiopia at this very time. And it just indicates that there's so much to be done and so much negotiation that has been planned and is underway, that this crisis really calls into question how those negotiations can be finished on time in the right spirit.
You can read the Ambassador's complete remarks here.