Princeton Lyman, President Obama’s special envoy on Sudan has been speaking about the U.S. position following Khartoum’s occupation of the disputed town of Abyei at the weekend.
In a press briefing in Washington he said the U.S. might withhold its support for debt relief worth $38 billion and reconsider plans to remove Sudan from its list of State Sponsors of Terrorism as a result of the invasion.
“Our ability to move towards normalization [of relations] is going to be complicated,” he said.
“[The northern army] basically invaded Abyei and they have now taken over most of Abyei,” Lyman said.
He also offered a little insight into the parlous nature of north-south relations revealing that presidents Omar al-Bashir and Salva Kiir, “have not been meeting recently and so far have not been in direct touch” about the latest conflagration in Abyei.
Lyman stressed that Abyei must be “negotiated rather than occupied”.
But there was little sign of this on Tuesday. Khartoum’s defence minister Abdulrahim Mohammed Hussein said, “Abyei will remain a northern town until the population decides on their situation by themselves.”
But the UN saying most of the southern population having already fled the town, leaving Abyei almost solely occupied by northern-aligned communities, such comments are clearly disingenuous.