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United Nations to replace Ethiopian troops in tense Abyei region, says Sudan

The UN will replace Ethiopian troops stationed in the Abyei area with forces from other nations, stating that it will contribute to UN peacekeeping efforts.

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Sudanese Foreign Minister Maryam al-Mahdi held a virtual meeting with UN Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa Parfait Onanga-Anyanga on Monday, with UN peacekeeping chief Jean-Pierre Lacroix and UN Department of Operational Support Director Atul Khare in attendance.

The discussion covered the situation in the Abyei area and the United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA), according to a statement released by the Sudanese foreign ministry following the meeting. “It was agreed to withdraw the Ethiopian component from the UNISFA during the next three months at the request of Sudan” the statement read. Al-Mahdi praised the UN’s favorable response and recognition of Sudan’s request for Ethiopian forces to be replaced.

The Sudanese foreign minister also promised to give all necessary facilities for Ethiopian forces to leave the border region “smoothly.”

Last April, Khartoum requested that the Ethiopian troops be withdrawn from the border town, claiming that Addis Ababa was no longer a neutral party. “It is not conceivable to accept Ethiopian forces deployed in the strategic depth of Sudan while Ethiopian troops are massing on the eastern borders of Sudan,” said the Sudanese foreign minister on April 6.

On June 27, 2011, only days before South Sudan’s independence, the UN Security Council authorized the deployment of a peacekeeping force to the disputed Abyei region. Over 3500 Ethiopian troops currently stationed in the area. At the time, ousted President Omer al-Bashir, a close ally of late Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, requested that this contingent be entirely made up of Ethiopian troops.

Following the deadly attacks in the claimed region, the mission was initially launched to ensure security and protect residents. The Security Council enlarged UNISFA’s authority on December 14, 2012, to include monitoring throughout the entire border between Sudan and South Sudan.

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