President Kiir and South Sudan face many challenges, as the country has to build capacity and structures from scratch. For example, there are only 20 km of tarmacked road in a country the size of France. Furthermore, the country has to deal with hundreds of thousands of south Sudanese returning from the north. Britain is not only working with the international community, but taking the lead in a number of key areas of development.
The Minister will be aware that one of the first decisions taken by the Government of South Sudan was to apply for membership of the Commonwealth of Nations. Will Her Majesty’s Government give support to that application? Should the country wish to apply to become one of Her Majesty’s realms, would the Government also support that application?
On my hon. Friend’s first point, that is obviously a matter for all members and key criteria will have to be met, especially those relating to the core values of democracy, human rights and the rule of law. South Sudan is making good progress, however, and we should be ambitious and aim for membership in 2013. On his second point, it is obviously up to the Sudanese to decide whether to have an elected presidency or move to a constitutional monarchy with Her Majesty the Queen as Head of State.
What steps are the Government taking to assist with the resolution of the outstanding border issues between South Sudan and the north, particularly the situation in Abyei?
I certainly share the hon. Gentleman’s concern about Abyei. A framework agreement is in place, which states clearly that both sides must disengage, and we are urging them to do so as soon as possible. The UN-backed force of Ethiopians is in place and is deploying, but both sides—the Sudanese armed forces and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army-North—must disengage.