Ethiopia will consider dispatching peacekeepers to the disputed border area of Abyei between north and south Sudan if both Juba and Khartoum lodge a request.
An Ethiopian official made the announcement on Tuesday last week. South Sudan is scheduled to become an independent country in a month’s time, but both sides have yet to settle potentially thorny issues such as the position of their common border and the sharing of oil proceeds.
“If both sides, Khartoum and Juba, ask us to send peacekeepers along their border, we will consider the request,” Ethiopia’s foreign ministry spokesman Dina Mufti told Reuters.
“It is within our interests and that of the region to maintain stability in Sudan,” he added, declining to say if Addis Ababa had already received such a request.
“There has been a request from the United Nations and the south Sudan government, but not from Khartoum,” Ethiopian Foreign Minister Hailemariam Desalegn told Reuters.
He said other conditions for Ethiopian deployment included that the UN agrees to let peacekeepers go in with “full equipment” and that the mission have Ethiopian command.
South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir said last week the south would not go to war over the incursion into Abyei.
Khartoum sent tanks and troops into oil producing Abyei on May 21, forcing tens of thousands of people to flee the fighting. But both sides agreed to set up a demilitarised zone along the border after talks in Addis Ababa.
More than 100 civilians have been killed in Sudan’s disputed Abyei region since the northern military seized it on May 21, an Abyei official said on Thursday, citing a preliminary count.
Ethiopia is seen as an honest broker by both sides and has hosted numerous meetings between north and south over the past two years.