The 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), signed by the Sudanese People's Liberation Army (SPLA) separatists in the south and the national Government in the north, brought an end to one of Africa's bloodiest civil wars, in which at least 2 million people were killed, 4 million others uprooted and 600,000 more fled across the country's borders.
"During the past five years, considerable progress has been made in the implementation of the CPA and the strengthening of the relationship between the two parties to the agreement," Mr. Ban noted in a statement issued by his spokesperson.
"However, the final year of the CPA will be an extremely challenging one, especially as the parties prepare for elections and the exercise of the right of self-determination for Southern Sudan," he added.
He went on to state that these challenges require the parties urgently to establish the necessary legal, political and institutional framework for the conduct of free, fair and credible elections, referenda and popular consultations. It is also important that they engage now in substantive discussions on post-referendum arrangements, regardless of the outcome of the referendum.
"More fundamentally, the parties must work towards reconciliation," the statement added.
"The people of Sudan have witnessed the horrible consequences of war and have waited more than 20 years for the benefits of peace. If the CPA is to deliver this peace, it will require a substantially increased commitment by the parties, with the support of the international community."
In a report issued last October, Mr. Ban stated that the key to implementing the CPA is the relationship between its signatories. "The Agreement must be implemented in spirit as well as the letter if the immense work undertaken is to be sustainable," he stressed, calling on the sides to boost their cooperation.
Today's statement declared that support for the successful implementation of the CPA is one of the UN's top priorities for this year, and that the world body will work closely with all actors to help the parties meet the final benchmarks of the peace agreement.
The 10,000-strong UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) has been in place since 2005 to help the parties implement the accord.
The Mission today voiced concern over the escalating violence in Southern Sudan over the past couple of weeks, in which more than 150 people have reportedly been killed and many more injured and displaced.
UNMIS chief Ashraf Qazi commended the actions taken so far by the Government of Southern Sudan, and urged it to investigate the incidents and to redouble its efforts to help de-escalate the rising wave of violence in the region.
For its part, the Mission has dispatched a long range military patrol to help defuse tensions and reduce chances of reprisal attacks at the site of the clashes, as well as to prepare for the arrival of humanitarian assessment teams.