Thank you, Mr. President. And thank you Under-Secretary-General Lacroix and Special Envoy Tetteh for sharing UNISFA’s progress on mandate implementation and your updates on Abyei.
The United States deeply appreciates UNISFA’s tireless efforts to implement its mandated tasks to protect civilians and facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid throughout its troop reconfiguration and in the face of unprecedented challenges.
I’d like to start by emphasizing the United States’ concern regarding the continued presence of South Sudanese and Sudanese armed groups in Abyei. These forces present a destabilizing factor for civilians in Abyei and threaten Abyei’s demilitarized status.
UNISFA peacekeepers are the only force that should operate in Abyei. We call on all armed groups to depart the region, and call on the Governments of Sudan and South Sudan to instruct their forces to evacuate Abyei.
Peacekeeper safety and security is of the utmost importance. We are concerned that UNISFA peacekeepers were attacked in two separate incidents in August. On August 10, a UNISFA helicopter carrying troops was fired upon by suspected Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North Abdelaziz al-Hilu faction elements. And on August 28, three peacekeepers returning from a patrol were injured in an attack by armed Twic Dinkas.
We condemn these attacks and call for the appropriate authorities to investigate them and hold the perpetrators accountable.
In addition to attacks against peacekeepers, UNISFA and the JBVMM continue to be the subject of misinformation campaigns. Over the past two years, the re-establishment of the JBVMM in Gok Machar has yet to come to fruition due to false reports that the JBVMM will declare the final border status.
UNISFA is mandated to support the JBVMM, and the Security Council repeatedly has urged the Governments of Sudan and South Sudan to support UNISFA including by facilitating the smooth operation of all JBVMM team sites.
We strongly encourage the Government of South Sudan to engage the local community and provide them with accurate information on the JBVMM’s agreed role, enabling it to re-establish its headquarters and team sites.
Similarly, we urge the parties to the conflict in Sudan to ensure a safe environment for all JBVMM and UNISFA personnel by providing safe passage to UNISFA and the JBVMM, facilitating full and safe resupply, and ensuring freedom of movement for the JBVMM in Kadugli and the two team sites.
On a positive note, we are pleased to learn that violence between the Ngok Dinka and Twic Dinka has declined over the reporting period. Efforts to foster peace need to continue.
We strongly urge the Government of South Sudan, with support from UNISFA, to promote improved relations between the two communities and foster a cohesive environment where the people of Abyei can live in peace and security.
Lastly, if Sudan and South Sudan wish to see true stability and peace within the disputed border area, they need to act with resolve to grant access to Anthony airfield, establish the Abyei Police Service, and facilitate the deployment of three Formed Police Units.
We reiterate our commitment to work with the Governments of Sudan and South Sudan and the people in the region, our fellow Council members, the African Union, and other international and regional partners to work towards peace, security, and prosperity in the region.
Thank you, Mr. President.