Washington, Asharq Al-Awsat- A source from the U.S. State Department told Asharq Al-Awsat that the U.S. government has not proposed that the Government of Southern Sudan occupy the Abyei region, where numerous oil fields are located, and then offer compensation to the North. The source said “the content of these statements have no foundation whatsoever”.
The source alluded to a statement by Philip Crowley, spokesman for the U.S. State Department, in which he denied these reports. Crowley was responding to news from southern Sudan, which reported that officials in the Government of Southern Sudan had suggested this strategy to U.S. officials, and requested approval. The U.S. officials allegedly agreed to this, and also agreed to participate in financial compensation [for the North]. Crowley responded to this allegation of a ‘U.S. plan’, when answering a question from a journalist at the State Department daily press briefing. He answered with one word: “No”. The question was: “The Southern Sudanese officials are saying that the U.S. has suggested a way forward whereby they would annex Abyei and then give the North basically financial restitution. This is a U.S. suggestion that’s on the table. Can you confirm that?” [Crowley answered “No.”] The journalist then asked: “Do you think it would be a good idea? Is that one way out of this [Abyei deadlock]?” Crowley answered: “I think that we’ll keep our discussions with officials at this point confidential”. Then the journalist attempted to repeat the question, but Crowley interjected, saying: “I’m not – don’t take that to mean I’m confirming what you just suggested”.
The U.S. State Department source stated that Crowley deliberately cut off the journalist’s question, when he felt that he was seeking official confirmation of a plan to occupy Abyei. The source described the question posed by the journalist as “naive”.
Furthermore, the source said that when Princeton Lyman, the U.S. Ambassador who presides over the daily affairs in southern Sudan, visited Washington, this was not connected with what is being called “the American plan to occupy Abyei”. He said that Lyman returned to Sudan the day before yesterday, after spending several days in Washington. The source stressed that the majority of Lyman’s activities were orientated around “logistical aspects of the referendum”, which is scheduled for January, in order to determine whether the southern Sudanese wish to secede, or remain in a united Sudan.
Regarding the disputed region of Abyei, which lies between the north and south of Sudan, and contains significant oil resources, Crowley said: “We continue to believe that a successful referendum on Abyei can be accomplished in early January, on schedule”.