28 June 2012

Sudan, South Sudan Fail to Agree On Buffer Zone, Talks to Resume Next Week

Photo: UN Photo/Stuart Price
Abyei town, one of the disputed regions (file photo).

Khartoum — Sudanese and South Sudanese delegations ended another round of talks without agreeing on a map to operationalize a buffer zone they have to establish on the common border. The mediation however announced the resumption of talks next week.

Sudan and South Sudan delegations led by defense ministers failed earlier this month to agree on the security line demarcating this Safe Demilitarized Border Zone (SDBZ). Khartoum, Juba and the mediation put different maps on the negotiating tables.

But Juba accepted the map prepared by the mediation while Khartoum continued to refuse it saying an area called "14 miles" is part of its territory and it would not accept that the mediation considers it as South Sudanese territory.

The office of Jean Ping chairman of the Africa Union Commission issued a statement telling the parties that the AU map or what it termed as "temporary security line" will not prejudice the final status of the disputed border areas that will be tackled separately the parties.

However, Sudan Tribune learnt that the Sudanese delegation continued to demand the mediation to reconsider its map and to define 14 Miles as a Sudanese territory. The mediation declined the demand.

Sudan defense minister Abdel Rahim Hussein avoided to criticize the mediation but pointed out that the plans presented by Juba delegation are not compatible with UN maps or that drawn by the specialized committees.

He also emphasized on the cordial atmosphere of the bilateral talkswith the South Sudanese delegation. In Juba Pagan Amum, South Sudan's top negotiator also told reporters that the two sides agreed to maintain the positive spirit that prevailed in the round.

Amum added that the upcoming round will discuss all the outstanding issues together without preconditions in order to reach a comprehensive agreement between the two countries.

In the next round of talks different tracks are expected to be held at the same time to discuss: border demarcation, Abyei and oil transportation fees. The parties have also to accelerate the implementation of the peace roadmap which indicates 2 August as deadline for the talks.

The AU's chief mediator, Thabo Mbeki, called in a statement released on Thursday on the international community to support the ongoing talks and praised both Sudan and South Sudan for their "serious" approach in this round of negotiations.

"The Parties have demonstrated great maturity and seriousness in their approach to the negotiations, mindful of the timeframes contained in the AU PSC Roadmap and UNSC Resolution 2046. This can only be good for the citizens of South Sudan and Sudan," he said.

The minister said they agreed to activate the Joint Border Verification and Monitoring Mission and the two countries will send their monitors to the temporary mission headquarters in Assosa, Ethiopia.

The mediation said the talks will resume on 5 July, stressing that the talks are adjourned "to enable the negotiators to consult with their principals, Presidents Salva Kiir Mayardit and Omar Al-Bashir."

Last week, the SMC, a semi-official media, reported that the Secretariat of African Union sent a letter to the Sudanese presidency to apologize for the confusion they made when they omitted to transmit a letter Khartoum sent on 17 November 2011 objecting to the map prepared by the mediation team.

On 16 June, President Omer Al-Bashir said there are some "conspirators at the Secretariat" of the African mediation who hided the objection of the Sudanese government and told the chief mediator Thabo Mbeki that Sudan accepted the map.

Bashir reiterated Sudan's rejection to operationalize the buffer zone unless it is based on the map agreed by the two parties when the independence of the new state was declared.


Reports published in Khartoum say Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi is attempting to organise a presidential meeting between Sudanese and south Sudanese leaders next week in Addis Ababa.

In case the two presidents fail to be there next week, the meeting will be held on the margins of the African Union Summit on 9 July in Addis Ababa, the reports say.

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