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Cablegate: Update On Situation in the East and Concerns Over Hamesh

VZCZCXRO3114
PP RUEHROV
DE RUEHKH #1590 1891440
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 081440Z JUL 06
FM AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 3564
INFO RUCNIAD/IGAD COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS KHARTOUM 001590

SIPDIS

SIPDIS
SENSITIVE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV PHUM ER SU UN
SUBJECT: UPDATE ON SITUATION IN THE EAST AND CONCERNS OVER HAMESH
KOREIB

REF: A) ASMARA 552, B) ASMARA 543, C) ASMARA 514

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: The UN and international partners are optimistic
following the conclusion of the first round of talks in Asmara
between the Eastern Front and Sudanese Government under Eritrean
mediation. The signing of the Declaration of Principles and
Cessation of Hostilities agreement were good first steps; the
parties agreed to reconvene on July 17, though the date may be
pushed to late July. A matter of some concern to our international
partners is the exclusion of international observers during the
first round. As noted in reftels, the Sudanese Government was
forceful in its desire to not permit outside participation or
observation in the talks, and Eritrea appears to have convinced the
Eastern Front to accept this position. Both sides have, however,
said there is room for technical assistance to contribute to a
consultative mechanism. The lack of observers in the talks in
Asmara may be less worrisome, however, than the absence of
international observers in Hamesh Koreib. The UN has lost all
access to the area, and concern is rising that retributive attacks
may be occurring. END SUMMARY.

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"Friends of the Mediation" to Provide Tech Assistance
--------------------------------------------- --------

2. (SBU) Pol Officer recently participated in a small group
discussion on developments in Eastern Sudan involving
representatives from UNMIS, OCHA, the UK, Norway, the Netherlands,
and Canada. In spite of the decision not to permit third party
observers into the talks, Eritrea has expressed support for the
creation of a "Friends of the Mediation" group, which would provide
ad hoc technical assistance. In particular, there is a growing
consensus that a consultative component is vital to success of the
talks. The parties appear to agree that dialogue within affected
communities is necessary prior to the signing of an agreement. A
meeting took place in Tessaney, Eritrea, during the first week of
July to discuss standing up and funding this consultative mechanism.
Some members of the donor community, including the Norwegians and
British, have said they plan to attend. Though the parties would
not pose any objection to international funding for the
consultations, this will not likely provoke movement on their
unwillingness to allow third-party observers to the talks.

--------------------------------------------- --
UN: Situation in Hamesh Koreib Remains Tenuous
--------------------------------------------- --

3. (SBU) Separately, indications are the situation in Eastern Sudan
may be more tenuous than is apparent from media reports. The recent
withdrawal of SPLA forces from Hamesh Koreib and turnover to Kassala
State authorities was met with positive reactions from the
international community, UN, and media, but since that time there
has been very little information emerging from the town. UNMIS is
increasingly concerned the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) may move into
Hamesh Koreib soon and the absence of observers may permit targeting
of civilians. Though UNMIS, other UN agencies, and NGOs previously
had obtained greater freedom of movement in the East for the
delivery of humanitarian supplies, the Sudanese Government has
recently re-imposed travel restrictions, including on WFP. This has
blocked most travel outside Port Sudan and Kassala. Prior to the
restrictions, WFP had delivered sufficient supplies to areas outside
these cities for one month, but supplies will run out in the near
future.

----------------------------------------
Hamesh Koreib a SAF "Area of Operations"
----------------------------------------

4. (SBU) The only recent visit to Hamesh Koreib was by the
International Rescue Committee (IRC), which reported that the town
has been declared an "Area of Operations" by the SAF. The issue is
further complicated by allegations that approximately 3,000 SPLA
"deserters" remain in the vicinity, and were not part of the general
withdrawal.

HUME

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