First Norwegian Foreign Minister to visit Sudan for 35 years

“The peace process in Sudan is in a decisive and critical phase. We can already see that this will be a key issue on the international agenda the next 12 months,” commented Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs Jonas Gahr Støre, who started a visit to Sudan today.

Mr Støre is the first Norwegian Foreign Minister to visit Sudan since Knut Frydenlund’s visit in 1975. Mr Støre will have political talks both in Khartoum in the north and in Juba in the south. He will also visit one of the country’s oil fields and take a closer look at the humanitarian situation.

Sudan is now in a decisive phase, five years after the signing of the peace treaty that put an end to the 22-year-long civil war. Elections have been held recently, and the countdown to the January 2011 referendum on independence for Southern Sudan has started.

“If Southern Sudan votes for independence, it is important to ensure that the process is peaceful. The north and south will still have to cooperate even if Southern Sudan becomes independent, particularly on the distribution of oil revenues. The parties urgently need to start negotiations on future cooperation,” said Mr Støre.

Mr Støre underlined that Africa must be in the driving seat in this process. The African Union and its representative Thabo Mbeki have a key role to play. At the same time, Norway has experience and contacts and is in a particularly good position to make a contribution.

“We have a well-developed network and enjoy the trust of both camps. We also have special expertise in the recovery of oil resources that both north and south could benefit from,” said Mr Støre, who will conclude his visit to Africa with meetings with Ethiopian leaders on Friday.

Source: Ministry of Foreign Affairs

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