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Cablegate: Aec Plenary of May 1, 2008

VZCZCXRO3859
RR RUEHROV
DE RUEHKH #0671/01 1231036
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 021036Z MAY 08
FM AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0706
INFO RUCNIAD/IGAD COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KHARTOUM 000671

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
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E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL KSCA OTRA EAID CDC SU
SUBJECT: AEC PLENARY OF MAY 1, 2008


1. (U) SUMMARY: The 31st ordinary plenary session of the AEC was
held May 1, 2008. The two sides (SPLM and NCP) sparred over recent
incidents around Abyei, while CDA Fernandez stressed the need to
grant UNMIS forces freedom of movement in the Abyei area to reduce
tensions (an expression supported around the table). The AEC's
working groups reported that they are beginning to solicit comments
from the parties on their draft reports that will be used to compile
the AEC's Mid-Term Evaluation. END SUMMARY

ABYEI DISCUSSION: CONCERN OVER RENEWED VIOLENCE
--------------------------------------------- --

2. (U) The Netherlands Ambassador, as Coordinator of the Three
Areas Working Group, led a discussion of Abyei by calling attention
to recent outbreaks of violence in the area. He asked whether the
two parties are satisfied with the early warning system in place,
and whether they were making good use of UNMIS forces. CDA
Fernandez stressed the need for UNMIS to be able to patrol freely in
the area. Allowing this unbiased third party free access is the
best measure the two parties can take to reduce tensions, he said.
During the meeting, other members of the international community
echoed these sentiments.

3. (U) In response, the SPLM rep insisted that only the
implementation of the Abyei Protocol could end tensions in the area.
Abyei residents are worried about their future, while they see
their natural resources being taken away from them. Until the Abyei
issue is resolved through full implementation of the Protocol, these
tensions and problems will only continue to fester, he said. The
NCP representative spoke up to say, in typically legalistic fashion,
that the areas where the recent outbreaks of violence took place
were not in Abyei area per se, but rather just over the border in
South Kordofan (in fact some of the fighting where SPLA units are
deployed, such as in Kharsana, are well north of the 1/1/56
border).

4. (U) The Dutch Ambassador pressed the two sides for their views
as to when an Administrator would be named for the area, but failed
to receive a response. The NCP reiterated that the Presidency must
appoint the Administrator, a step delayed by the need to define the
Abyei area boundaries. He noted suggestions to appoint an
Administrator without defining the northern border of the Abyei
area, which was the only one at issue. The SPLM insisted that
unless the borders are first determined, naming an Administrator
would only generate more confusion in the troubled area.

5. (U) Chairman Plumbly brought the Abyei discussion to a close by
noting the concern expressed around the table that USMIS be employed
in situations of tension such as Abyei. He also noted that the
Dutch Coordinator of the Three Areas Working Group would soon be
scheduling a working visit to Abyei, and he urged both parties to
take part in that event.

CENSUS
------

6. (U) Discussion then turned to an update of the national census
currently being carried out. This part of the AEC's discussion is
being reported SEPTEL.

WORKING GROUP REPORTS
---------------------
7. (U) CDA Fernandez kicked off reports by AEC working group
coordinators, noting that the Wealth Sharing Working Group is
putting final touches to its "Elements" for use by the AEC's primary
drafter in cobbling together a unified text for the Mid-Term
Evaluation (MTE). Those "elements" will be distributed shortly to
the two parties for comments. Chairman Plumbly stressed that at
this point the two parties should only furnish general reactions to
content, rather than engaging in line-by-line "haggling" over text.

8. The other working group coordinators noted various upcoming
events within their groups. In particular, the Italians (Power
Sharing Working Group) noted that they are working to schedule a
meeting on May 26 or 27 with the caucus of the National Assembly.
The purpose of this event will be to hear from them a status report
on legislation related to CPA implementation. All the working
groups reported that they were now beginning to seek comments on
their Elements for the MTE.

AFRICAN UNION UPGRADES ITS CPA SUPPORT EFFORTS
--------------------------------------------- -

9. The only item raised under "Any Other Business" was an
introductory statement by newly-arrived Ambassador Mahmoud Kane from
the African Union. The Ambassador announced that the AU is
upgrading its local representation. It recently opened an AU
Liaison Office in Sudan with the purpose of providing support to the
CPA process. The office includes a presence in Juba as well as
Khartoum, he said.

10. (SBU) COMMENT: The May 1 plenary provided an opportunity for

KHARTOUM 00000671 002 OF 002


both sides to vent over the two issues currently providing the most
heat in the CPA process: the ongoing Census, and the tensions in
Abyei. For the first time in many months, the SPLM was ably
represented at AEC, by SPLM Deputy SG Yassir Arman, who aggressively
presented his party's position. On Abyei, we will have to wait and
see whether the international community's plea to allow UNMIS to do
their job in the area will be heard, but we are not optimistic. On
the Mid-Term Evaluation, currently devouring the lion's portion of
AEC energies, the outlook is good. The working groups have kept up
with the ambitious schedule outlined by Chairman Plumbly. Our
discussions with other coordinators show that all are attempting to
produce a report free of finger-pointing, concentrating instead on
recognizing progress and recommending steps to move the process
forward. We are guardedly hopeful that the two sides will approach
the effort in this spirit, and not get bogged down in haggling over
wording. Inshallah.

FERNANDEZ

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