Thank you, Mr President,

As this is the first public meeting of the month, I would like to assure you of our full support for your presidency, and I would also like to congratulate Malta on its successful presidency last month.

I would also like to thank Under-Secretary-General Lacroix and Special Envoy Tetteh for their briefings. I welcome the presence of the representatives of Sudan and South Sudan at this meeting.

Allow me also to express our sincere condolences to the families of all the victims of the attacks in southern and central Abyei last year and earlier this year. The considerable number of civilian casualties, including humanitarian personnel, and the attacks against UNISFA, which itself lost two peacekeepers – as we have heard – are unacceptable. This Council was quick to denounce this violence. We also deeply deplore last week's attack on the ICRC in South Darfur. Those responsible for all these attacks must be held to account. Those who risk everything to assist others must be protected, as required by international humanitarian law. Switzerland is committed to this end, in particular through our current draft resolution.

Abyei remains a victim of the deteriorating security situation in its southern part, as well as the continuing impact of the ongoing conflict in Sudan and the persistent tensions in South Sudan. I would therefore like to highlight three priorities:

First, we must do everything we can to protect the civilian population from further violence. This applies in particular to the inter-community clashes in southern Abyei, especially between the Ngok Dinka and the Twic Dinka. While welcoming South Sudan's political engagement, we are concerned about the significant increase in the presence of the South Sudan People's Defence Forces. As the Under-Secretary-General has reminded us, this presence restricts UNISFA's freedom of movement and therefore its ability to protect civilians and facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid. This is especially important as the vital supply route through Sudan has been cut off as a result of the conflict. In addition, the proliferation of weapons must be urgently addressed. Abyei must remain a demilitarised and arms-free zone, in line with the 2011 agreement and the demand of this Council.

Second, and as my colleagues have already pointed out, UNISFA plays a crucial role in contributing to peace and security in Abyei. We therefore call on the authorities of Sudan and South Sudan to continue to respect the Status of Forces Agreement. This requires all parties to ensure that UNISFA and the Joint Border Verification and Monitoring Mechanism can continue to move freely and operate under safe and secure conditions. We welcome South Sudan's support for the transit of goods through its territory, and hope that this process can continue efficiently.

Third, further confidence-building and dialogue are essential to address the current long-term challenges. In this regard, and in the absence of the Abyei Police Service, the Community Protection Committees and the Joint Community Peace Committee play an essential role in terms of early warning, to address issues relating to human rights or sexual and gender-based violence. We commend their work and the support provided by UNISFA, particularly in facilitating meetings of the women's joint peace committees. While congratulating the Sudanese authorities for agreeing to deploy ten additional police officers, we reiterate our call to facilitate the full deployment of the mandated police capacity.

Mr President,

The deteriorating situation in Abyei requires a collective effort. We reaffirm our full support for the work of UNISFA, the Special Envoy, the African Union and IGAD. We remain committed to working with all stakeholders to achieve peace and prosperity in Abyei.

I thank you.

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