5 July 2012

Sudan, South Sudan Security Talks Resume in Ethiopian Capital

Photo: Louise Roland-Gosselin/ Médecins Sans Frontières
Displaced by conflict: The two nations failed to reach an agreement on key security and border issues during their last meeting.

Addis Ababa — Sudan and South Sudan negotiators on Thursday resumed talks on security arrangements as the AU-UN set deadline for the two sides to resolve their outstanding post-partition issues approaches.

Sources close to the talks told Sudan Tribune that representatives from both sides have arrived in Addis Ababa and fresh negotiations aimed to revolve differences over establishing a demilitarised buffer zone along their troubled border restarted on Thursday.

The two sides fail to reach agreement on key security and border issues during their last round of talks last week but managed to agree on the activation of the Joint Border Verification and Monitoring Mechanism (JBVMM).

In early May United Nations Security Council and the African Union gave Sudan and South Sudan a three-month deadline to conclude negotiations over their outstanding issues, following a border war in April of the Heglig oil region, which is claimed by both sides.

Among the items that remain to be resolved after South Sudan's independence on 9 July 2012 are how much South Sudan should pay to export its oil through Sudan's pipelines, citizenship, border demarcation, and the status of the disputed Abyei region.

The two nations have less than a month to resolve their differences before the UN-AU deadline expires on 2 August. Both sides face the prospect of of sanctions if a deal is not agreed.

South Sudan's chief negotiator, Pagan Amum, said his team were had "optimistic plans" to bring to the table.

The African Union-mediated talks on security matters will be followed by further negotiations between committees on other pending issues later this week and on high level political meetings next week.

Mean while, AU spokesperson, Noureddine Mezni, on Thursday confirmed to Sudan Tribune that Sudanese president, Omar al-Bashir and his South Sudanese counterpart, Salva Kiir, will hold meeting in Addis Ababa in the margins of the African Union Summit which will kick off next week in the Ethiopian capital.

Mezni, declined to give further details over the presidential meeting which is believed to have been proposed by Ethiopian Prime Minister, Meles Zenawi.

The two leaders' presence in Addis Ababa is believed to create good atmosphere among both negotiators. Kiir and Bashir's last meeting was in Khartoum in October 2011.

Kiir's visit was to be reciprocated by Bashir on April 3 2012 but Khartoum cancelled the visit as border clashes around Heglig intensified resulting in South Sudan's army occupying the area from April 10-20.

On his visit to Juba the two Presidents had been due to sign a citizenship agreement on the status of Southern Sudanese living in Sudan and Sudanese living in South Sudan.

However, the war of Heglig put the talks back and triggered the United Nations and African Union to step in with a new deadline for post-independence issues to be resolved.

South Sudan accuses the Sudan Armed Forces of dropping of 80 bombs on its territory since it seceded last year and further accuses Khartoum of supporting southern rebels, who are fighting the government in Upper Nile, Jonglei and Unity State's

Khartoum denies this and has demanded that Juba admit that it continues to back to SPLA-N in the border states of Blue Nile and South Kordofan. During Sudan's two decade civil war the SPLA-N fought with the southern Sudan-based SPLA, which is now the governing party and army of the new nation.

Tutu in Addis

A three member delegation of senior international leaders, led by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, have arrived in Addis Ababa as part of a six-day visit to Ethiopia, South Sudan and Sudan, aimed at encouraging the AU led peace efforts.

The delegation which also comprises Martti Ahtisaari, former President of Finland and Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland and former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights is expected to encourage and push Sudan and South Sudan leaders reach into a tangible peace deal.

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