Foreign Secretary William Hague calls the opening of polling "a truly remarkable achievement" and pays tribute to those leaders who brought it about.
As polling stations in Sudan today opened for the Southern Sudan referendum the Foreign Secretary said:
“Six years ago the UK was a witness to the signing of Sudan’s Comprehensive Peace Agreement. Today’s opening of the polling stations for the Southern Sudan referendum is a truly remarkable achievement and I pay tribute to the leaders who have brought this about.
The organisation and commitment needed to register almost four million people to vote demonstrates the real progress that has been made across the whole of Sudan. The UK is playing its part in helping to ensure a credible election process by observing polling in both North and Southern Sudan.
I welcome the clear statement that the Government of Sudan will respect the choice of the people, and the commitments Sudanese leaders have made to ensuring the security of citizens at this time across the country.
Regardless of the outcome of this week’s vote, the UK will continue to support Sudanese people in the North and South, on their journey towards the peaceful and prosperous future that they deserve. We continue to support President Mbeki’s efforts to facilitate agreement on post-referendum issues.”
Speaking earlier on Sky News the Foreign Secretary said: “There are many things still to be settled. It’s remarkable Sudan has got to this point peacefully. What we’re trying to make sure is that it goes ahead peacefully. It would be a huge event if they voted for independence.”
Asked by Sky whether the President of Sudan should be trusted the Foreign Secretary replied: “On past form one would think not, nevertheless we’ve kept up a dialogue with his Vice President and I’m hoping to talk with the Southern Sudan leader this afternoon to show they have a future with the West. President Bashir has said more positive things in recent times; he made the right noises about respecting the result. I’ve chaired a special meeting of the UN Security Council in New York bringing both sides in Sudan together so I think we’ve done everything we can. There are UN peacekeepers doing an important job.”
He added “We have to find a way of doing business with the North of Sudan - have to influence them in the right direction. That’s why I try to talk with the Vice President. To cut off relations with the North would be a mistake. It would mean we weren’t influencing and negotiating over an oil rich region in a constructive way over the next few months. We have to keep up engagement with the government in Khartoum.”
Troika Statement on the start of polling for the Southern Sudan Referendum
The Foreign Secretary William Hague, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Støre today issued a joint statement as follows:
“We welcome the start of polling today for the Southern Sudan Referendum. This represents a historic step towards completion of Sudan’s Comprehensive Peace Agreement. We recognise the significant progress which has been made in recent weeks towards preparing for the referendum, including the successful completion of voter registration and other technical arrangements. We welcome the preliminary reports of the UN Secretary General’s Panel on the Referenda in Sudan, Carter Center, European Union, and other international and domestic observation missions, which stated that arrangements are now in place that provide a firm foundation for a credible referendum to take place.
We call for all efforts to ensure peaceful and credible completion of the referendum process in a manner which reflects the will of the people of South Sudan. The Southern Sudan Referendum Commission and Southern Sudan Referendum Bureau have made enormous efforts under significant pressure and deserve to be commended for their work. We welcome the leadership shown by both Sudanese parties. President Bashir has made clear that his Government will respect the outcome of the Referendum. We welcome this commitment.
We are encouraged by the strong public commitments of both Presidents Bashir and Kiir to continue negotiations on post-referendum issues and to foster cooperation between the North and South regardless of the referendum result. We welcome these commitments as well as their pledge that the safety and security of all peoples in Sudan will be protected throughout this process. It is vital that these commitments are upheld.
The situation in Abyei remains of deep concern. We commend the people of Abyei for their patience in recent months. The outstanding issues must be resolved in a calm and measured manner and we emphasise again to both parties their responsibilities to urgently resolve the impasse. Clear communication is also vital to reassure the communities on the ground that their concerns will be addressed and to underscore that the parties will reconvene negotiations at the earliest possible date. It is also of great importance that popular consultations in Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan states are conducted expeditiously and inclusively.
The work of the many domestic and international observation and monitoring groups is crucial. We welcome their continuing engagement. We also welcome the strong leadership by the United Nations Mission in Sudan. We will work closely with all international partners to maintain strong international support for the referendum process, and successful completion of the CPA.”