UNITED NATIONS June 27, 2011 — The UN Security Council will vote on a resolution Monday allowing a 4,200-strong Ethiopian force to start peacekeeping duties in the disputed Sudanese region of Abyei, diplomats said.
The force would monitor the withdrawal of north Sudan troops from Abyei as well as human rights in the region as part of its mandate.
The major powers have called for urgent action on Abyei as new fighting flaring in the adjoining state of South Kordofan has heightened tensions ahead of southern Sudan’s formal declaration of independence on July 9.
Abyei is claimed by north and south Sudan. Khartoum government troops occupied Abyei on May 21 and more than 100,000 people have since fled, mainly to the south. The troops will be withdrawn under a deal reached between the north and south earlier this month.
The United States has been pressing for an early vote on the mission, which will be known as the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei, or UNISFA. US Ambassador Susan Rice has called the north-south peace deal “fragile.”
The US mission had originally sought a vote over the weekend, but discussions on final details have been held on Saturday and Sunday instead, diplomats said.
“Now there is agreement between the permanent members of the council and there will be a vote Monday,” one diplomat said. Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States, as permanent members, can veto any resolution.
The new force will be one of the biggest of its kind, considering Abyei’s size of about 4,000 square miles (10,000 square kilometers).
If Ethiopia sends the full 4,200 maximum contingent, it will be four times more than the current UN force in Abyei, which is part of the UN mission in Sudan, UNMIS.
Khartoum said it had agreed to the Abyei peace deal with the south, brokered by former South African president Thabo Mbeki at the head of an African Union panel, because it placed Abyei in the north.
But Rice and other diplomats have insisted the accord makes no judgment on the final status of Abyei, which the two government have yet to hammer out.
The status of Abyei is among a host of disputes and deals to be settled between the two sides before Southern Sudan formally declares itself independent.