UN Refugee Agency Concerned About Sudan’s Abyei Region

Posted June 1st, 2011 at 4:10 am (UTC-5)
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The United Nations refugee agency says it is concerned that the number of displaced people in Sudan's Abyei region could rise after a recent outbreak in fighting.

The UNHCR said Tuesday the security situation in the region remains precarious a week after fighting erupted involving forces from both north and south Sudan.

The agency said more than a third of the huts in Abyei have been burned down, while many others have been looted or destroyed. It also said the area was nearly empty of its population of about 50,000 people, and warned that aid delivery is being affected by insecurity in the region.

The African Union said Tuesday north and south Sudan have agreed to create a demilitarized border zone, with joint patrols stretching along their 2200-kilometer-long north-south border.

An AU adviser says the demilitarized zone will be established by July 9, the day south Sudan is due to declare independence from the north.

At the same time Tuesday, Sudan informed the United Nations in New York that it wants the U.N. peacekeeping force on its southern border to leave its territory when south Sudan becomes independent.

Sudan's U.N. ambassador told the Security Council that after July 9, Khartoum does not see the need for the more than 10,000-strong U.N. peacekeeping force to remain.

North Sudanese forces seized control of the contested and oil-rich Abyei region earlier this month, and has rejected calls from the United States, United Nations and south Sudan to remove its troops.

Tension in Sudan rose again Saturday when the north demanded the south withdraw its troops from two border states, Blue Nile and South Kordofan.

Ethiopia says it would consider sending peacekeepers to help monitor the volatile border area if both sides request it. South Sudan's U.N. envoy welcomed the proposal Tuesday, while Khartoum's ambassador was non-committal, saying his government is contemplating many such initiatives.

North and South Sudan fought a 21-year civil war that ended in 2005. The south voted to split from the north in a January referendum.