October 6, 2007 (KHARTOUM) — A U.S. envoy warned Saturday that Sudan
could fall back into civil war if it does not live up to a peace deal in the
south. Many say the region must remain stable if the country hopes to resolve
a separate conflict in western Darfur.
Andrew NatsiosAndrew Natsios, the White House’s special envoy to Sudan,
said he was "deeply concerned with the health" of the 2005 peace agreement
that ended two decades of civil war between the Arab-dominated, Muslim central
government and Christian and animist black southerners.
"We are deeply concerned with the health of the comprehensive peace agreement
(CPA)," Natsios told reporters after a 10-day trip to Sudan.
"The current political atmosphere is poisonous ... this war of words has
to stop," he added. He was referring to southern and northern officials
using the media to accuse each other of failing to implement key clauses.
Last month South Sudan President Salva Kiir warned of a possible return to
war if the deal was not implemented.
He cited the failure to set the border between north and south, share the oil
wealth and pass key laws. The most serious danger, he said, is the militarization
of the contested areas around Sudan’s oil fields, where neither the government
nor southerners have followed their pledges to pull out troops.
"Tensions are rising, this is dangerous," Natsios told reporters
in the capital, Khartoum, ending a 10-day visit to Sudan that brought him both
to the south and Darfur. "The risk of a clash is high."
Natsios added key protocols on demarcating the borders of the oil-rich contested
Abyei region and mapping the north-south border needed to be resolved and offered
U.S. help if needed.
But he said the partners needed to engage with one another to overcome the
final obstacles to the deal.
"I’ve talked to both sides and urged them to step back from this
spiralling public rhetoric," he said. "In private it’s very
acrimonious, poisonous is the word."
"The people who are supposed to carry out the peace agreement are going
to be likely opponents in the elections that are to be held in early 2009,"
International observers have warned in recent months that the problems in the
south have been overshadowed by the crisis in Darfur, where more than 200,000
people have died and 2.5 million have been displaced in four years of fighting
between the government and ethnic African rebels.
Former President Carter, who visited Sudan earlier this week, has been among
many voices warning that Darfur cannot be solved if the broader peace deal with
the southerners collapses. Sudan’s government refused for two years to
negotiate any serious peace deal in Darfur until the Comprehensive Peace Agreement
was signed with the south in 2005.
If war with the south breaks out again, some fear the government could free
up its regular troops by granting more leeway to Arab janjaweed militias blamed
for many of the atrocities in Darfur. The government denies backing the militias.
The renewed concern comes amid international hopes for a turning point in Darfur.
Negotiations between the government and Darfur rebels are to be held in Libya
later this month, though some rebels leaders are refusing to attend. The U.N.
and African Union, meanwhile, are preparing to send a joint force of 26,000
peacekeepers to replace a smaller, beleaguered AU mission in Darfur.
In the south, fighting broke out last year in the contested town of Malakal,
killing more than 150 people over two days