US, UK and Norway urge South Sudan to pull troops from oil-rich region of Abyei amid violence

JUBA, South Sudan (AP) — The U.S., Norway, and the UK are urging the government of South Sudan to withdraw its troops from the disputed region of Abyei amid violence in which at least 27 people have been killed in recent days.

“We renew our calls upon the transitional government (of South Sudan) to urgently withdraw its troops in line with its commitments” as part of the deal for South Sudan’s independence in 2011, their embassies in South Sudan said in a statement Monday.

Inter-communal and cross-border clashes have escalated since South Sudan deployed its troops to Abyei in March.

The statement cited concern over “ongoing violence” in Abyei’s Rumameer county, as well as Twic county in South Sudan’s Warrap state. South Sudanese troops in Abyei increase the presence of weapons there, threatening the region’s demilitarized status, it said.

Oil-rich Abyei is claimed by both Sudan and South Sudan.

At least 27 people have been killed and 20 others wounded in violence there, according to the U.N. Interim Security Force for Abyei, also known as UNISFA.

The U.N. Security Council last week voted unanimously to renew UNISFA’s mandate until November 2024.

Earlier this month, the U.N. special envoy for the Horn of Africa, Hanna Serwaa Tetteh, warned that the “unprecedented” 7-month war between Sudan’s army and a rival paramilitary force was getting closer to South Sudan and the Abyei region, whose status was unresolved after South Sudan became independent. The breakaway deal called for both countries to settle the final status of Abyei through negotiations, but it has never been implemented.

Sudan and South Sudan over the years have disagreed over control of Abyei. The region’s majority Ngok Dinka people favor South Sudan, while the Misseriya nomads who come to Abyei to find pasture for their cattle favor Sudan.