A senior official speaking on condition of anonymity told Asharq Al-Awsat that Mbeki declined to intervene in the dispute over the timing of the Abyei referendum, which is scheduled for October. He said Mbeki left the decision to the United Nations, which issued Resolution 2046 to resolve the issues between the two countries, including the final status of Abyei.
An informed source told Asharq Al-Awsat that Mbeki held a closed-door meeting with Kiir in Juba. They discussed the remaining unresolved issues between Sudan and South Sudan and Sudan’s accusations that the Southern government supported the Popular Movement, which has been at war with the Sudanese government in the Nuba Mountains and the Blue Nile region for more than two years. He added that Mbeki delivered Bashir’s agreement to hold talks with Northern Movement rebels to Kiir.
The source said Mbeki discussed the issue of Abyei with Bashir, and that the Sudanese president had asked Mbeki to move the date of the referendum from October, the date preferred by Juba. He revealed that “Mbeki refused to postpone the referendum and told Bashir that the date could only be changed through the UN Security Council and not the African Union.”
Meanwhile, Mbeki said in a statement broadcast on South Sudan TV that Khartoum and Juba were capable of resolving their disputes peacefully and should focus on building good neighborly relations. He added that he listened to Salva Kiir about his recent visit to Khartoum and the talks he held with Bashir on various issues, especially the issue of the demarcation of borders and continuing oil export through Sudan.
Chairman of the Supervisory Committee for the Abyei region from the South Sudan side, Edward Lino, told Asharq Al-Awsat that “the people of Abyei were committed to the referendum date,” adding that “we will not agree with Khartoum because we do not have much confidence in them at all, because they always play games to waste time and delay the referendum, the date of which was set by the African Peace and Security Council.”
Lino said Salva Kiir had emphasized to Bashir during their meeting that “there are no obstacles to a meeting with Salva Kiir, but we will not meet Bashir unless he announces that he agrees that the referendum will be held on time in October. As for us, we will go ahead with the process and that is final.”