TRIPOLI (Reuters) - The European Union and African states urged Sudan’s government on Tuesday to accept the results of next year’s referendum on whether the oil-producing south of the country should secede.
The January 9 referendum, part of a peace agreement that ended decades of north-south civil war, is likely to produce a vote in favour of independence, diplomats and analysts have said, but it also could be a flashpoint for renewed conflict.
Concerns over the referendum were reflected in a declaration adopted at a summit of EU and African Union states in Libya.
“On Sudan, we emphasise the urgency and importance of ensuring that all elements of the CPA (Comprehensive Peace Agreement) ... are implemented in a timely, peaceful and credible manner, in particular the referendum on South Sudan whose results should be accepted by all,” it said.
The EU-Africa summit was the first in three years and was aimed at hammering out joint approaches between the two blocs on issues such as aid, trade, security and immigration.
Other provisions in the final declaration were:
-- The EU and Africa “firmly condemn all unconstitutional changes of governments, which, alongside bad governance, are one of the main causes of instability”.
This was a reference to a spate of coups d‘etat which have tested the resolve of African leaders to end the practise of military strong-men seizing power by force.
-- The draft tiptoed around the issue of the International Criminal Court’s indictment of Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir on war crimes and genocide charges.
The EU and some African states back his arrest, but others say the court is being used as a political tool of the West. Sudan said it was boycotting the summit in protest at EU pressure for Bashir to stay away.
The document said the EU and Africa are united in the fight against impunity and acknowledge the need to prosecute the most serious crimes, but it did not mention the court itself.
“We are not against the International Criminal Court,” Jean Ping, the African Union’s top diplomat, told reporters.
“We are against two-speed justice, where the little people, the chicken thieves, are taken to task, while the big bandits are allowed to go free.”
-- Europe and Africa committed to concluding a set of stalled trade deals, known as Economic Partnership Agreements.
The deals are deadlocked because some African countries feel the EU is asking them to remove barriers to trade while not doing enough to help them develop their own economies. For a factbox, click on
“There was a clear commitment to speed up our work on that matter,” European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso told a news conference. “In fact, on behalf of the European Union I committed to use our flexibility addressing the concerns raised by the African side.”