14 July 2012

Sudan: Bashir and Kiir Hold Face-to-Face Meeting in Addis Ababa

Photo: Isaac Billy/UN Photo
Independence day ceremony (file photo): Sudan's president Omar Al-Bashir (left) and South Sudan's president Salva Kiir met in Ethiopia for the first since the two countries went to battle over the Heglig oil field in April.

Addis Ababa/Khartoum — Presidents Omer al-Bashir and Salva Kiir met in the Ethiopian capital to discuss unresolved issues between the two countries for the first time since the clashes over Heglig in April last year.

The meeting sends encouraging and positive signals to the people of the two countries who suffer from a severe economic crisis and to the international community expressing their serious commitment to reach a deal before the deadline of 2 August.

"The two presidents have agreed and instructed their negotiating teams to expedite negotiations and develop bold decisions in key areas as well as to reach agreements in all issues," South Sudan chief negotiator Pagan Amum told reporters after the private encounter.

"It was a good meeting," he further told reporters who gathered outside the meeting room where they met at the Sheraton on Saturday evening.

Earlier during the day, the two presidents participated at a meeting of the African Union Peace and Security Council (AUPSC) chaired by the Ivorian president Alassane Ouattara. Bashir and Kiir joined the meeting room one after another finding themselves in the same room for the first time since last Mars.

During the AUSPC meeting the two presidents emphasised in their speeches on their respective concerns.

Bashir underscored the security concern and the need to speed up the operationalization of the buffer zone saying there was no reason to contest Sudan's current border because it served to give South Sudan its independence.

Kiir on the other side focused on the issue of oil transportation saying Juba wants clear commitment to not divert South Sudan production, and asked for international guarantees. He also stressed on the need to reach a quick solution over Abyei issue.

The delegation of the two countries have already agreed earlier this month to hold talks on all the outstanding issues as Juba reassured Khartoum on the implementation of the demilitarized zone and the presence of Darfur rebels in South Sudan. The Sudanese delegation also agreed with the mediation on the resumption of talks with the SPLM-North rebels over South Kordofan and Blue Nile.

"I note with great satisfaction, the recent assertion by the two countries of their desire to return to a spirit of partnership in their negotiations" in order to meet the 2 August deadline as determined in the AU roadmap and the UN resolution 2046 said Ping in his speech before the AUPSC meeting.

Pagan told reporters that Kiir reaffirmed in his meeting with Bashir that South Sudan has a strategic interest to improve its relations with all the neighbouring countries.

The chief negotiator also pointed out that the two parties have an opportunity to conclude a "fair deal" and to end hostilities.

"We are ready to resume oil production if there is a fair deal, and there is a guarantee that there will be no diversion (of the oil)," he further pointed out.

After a session of talks in presence of their close aides and ministers, Bashir and Kiir held a one-on-one meeting.

The two men were seen in good mood smiling and shaking hand after the private meeting as Bashir accompanied Kiir outside the room where they held their talks.

On 7 July Sudan and south Sudan announced they reached a Comprehensive Strategic Approach providing to enhance confidence, good faith and transparency to resolve the pending issues between the two countries.

They also committed themselves to resort to peaceful means to resolve their disputes and to not interfere in the internal affairs of each other.

Yesterday Pagan Amum, who is also the secretary general of the ruling party in Juba, in statements to Sudan Tribune praised the new spirit of the talks stressing that he believes the two sides will "get out with something positive".

"Peace is in the interest of our people. They need peace to prevail so that we can live side by side as friendly neighbours," he said.

The delegation of the two countries will hold non-stop meetings during the upcoming two weeks in order to finalize a deal over the outstanding matters before the 2 August.

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