Khartoum — The chairman of the African Union High-Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP) saw little change in Khartoum's position regarding the resumption of negotiations with Juba during his talks today with Sudanese president Omer Hassan al-Bashir.
Mbeki's visit comes more than two weeks after the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) adopted a resolution demanding north and south Sudan to sit down for talks on key post-independence issues including oil, border demarcation, citizenship and Abyei. Both sides must reach an agreement within three months after which the mediation would propose its own solution to the deadlock.
The council threatened non-military sanctions on any party deemed not to be in compliance with its decision.
While Sudan accepted the resolution it insisted that the issue of security and particularly Juba's alleged support to northern rebels be tackled first before they move to other items.
The ruling National Congress Party (NCP) external relations secretary Ibrahim Ghandour told reporters after the lengthy Mbeki-Bashir meeting that the Sudanese leader underscored the importance of reaching a permanent peace with South Sudan that guarantees no more attacks on its territory.
Last month the Sudanese army managed to recapture the oil-rich region of Heglig inside South Kordofan after South Sudan army (SPLA) briefly seized it. The clashes ignited fears of the eruption of full-scare war between the two countries.
Bashir told Mbeki that rapprochement with Juba requires ceasing support to rebels, halting attacks near borders, honoring previous border monitoring accords and withdrawing what Khartoum claims to be the presence of 9th and 10th SPLA divisions inside Blue Nile and South Kordofan states where Sudan army is battling rebels from SPLA-North (SPLA-N) since last year.
The Sudanese leader expressed readiness to implement Mbeki's proposal of a demilitarized zone 10 kilometers inside each country's borders.
Mbeki on his end mentioned Khartoum's willingness to withdraw inside 1956 borders but it is not clear if that includes disputed Abyei region which according to last year's agreement requires both countries to pull out their troops. This month Juba completed its withdrawal but Khartoum refused to despite UNSC orders saying that they will only do so after the establishment of administrative body and complete deployment of Ethiopian peacekeepers.
The AUHIP chair will now travel to Juba for talks with senior officials there amid growing hostility towards his mediation from South Sudan. The latter has recently stepped up its criticism of Mbeki suggesting that he is favoring Khartoum.
On Friday the South Sudan chief negotiator Pagan Amum called for imposing sanctions on Khartoum saying they violated the UNSC timeline for resuming negotiations with expired on Wednesday.
He criticized the UN and the AU for failing to deal firmly with Sudan which he said routinely defied the international community.
"The UN sees it as normal for Bashir to bomb and kill the people of South Sudan. The conscience of the international community is not pricked ... they are used to it, it has become normal," he complained.
"If the UN fails to take action, they will be judged by humanity and the people of South Sudan will lose trust and confidence in them," Amum said.
"We are going to ask them, 'What are you going to do?'" he posed the question.
The Sudanese foreign ministry described Amum's remarks as "unfortunate" and accused Juba of attacking Sudan's territories.