Khartoum, Sudan. North and south Sudan have reached an agreement to demilitarise the disputed oil-rich Abyei region following series of futile discussions to find everlasting solution on the fate of the region. The landmark peace agreement comes weeks before south’s independence is legitimately recognised but dispute over the region which both sides claim has led to bloody confrontations in the recent past, leaving thousands displaced. Former South African leader Thabo Mbeki who mediated the talks held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia told reporters that representatives from the Khartoum government and south’s Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), managed to sign the agreement on Abyei that provides for the demilitarisation of Abyei so that the Sudanese army would withdraw and for the deployment of Ethiopian forces.He said the deal clears the way for displaced residents to return home and establish solid ground for talks on Abyei’s final status after South’s July 9 independence. Mr. Mbeki added that the Sudanese army and SPLM officers would meet with the Ethiopian officials to settle on a mandate that will allow the Ethiopian peacekeepers to buffer the region. Also a police service with the size and composition determined jointly by officials from both sides would be established.
US envoy to the UN Susan Rice called for immediate implementation of the pact and deployment of the peacekeeping forces that are waiting for the UN approval. In her remarks to the UN Security Council, Rice said that the US would begin to draft a resolution that would authorise deployment of the Ethiopian forces. Dispute over Abyei and other outstanding issues such as sharing of oil resources and national debt have grappled Sudan’s peace process and implementation of the 2005 peace agreement that ended two decade-long north-south strife.