Khartoum — The Sudanese defense minister, Abdel Rahim Mohammed Hussien, has held brief consultations with the country's president Omer Al-Bashir before flying on Tuesday back to the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa to catch the current round of talks with neighboring South Sudan.
Hussein, who chairs Sudan's team on the Joint Political and Military Committee (JPSM) with South Sudan, told the privately owned Al-Sudani newspaper that he had returned from Addis Ababa to Khartoum in order to brief Al-Bashir on the latest developments on the talks with the south.
His return follows the collapse of direct talks between the two sides after South Sudan accused Sudan of bombing its territories on 20 July. A charge Khartoum denies saying it only attacked Darfur rebels inside Sudanese territories.
The minister's return also follows the rejection of Sudan's negotiating team to an offer by its South Sudanese counterpart to settle the issues of oil transit fees, debts and the referendum on the status of Abyei region.
In rejecting the offer, Khartoum said it contains "nothing new" as South Sudan's chief negotiator, Pagan Amum, explained that it involves Juba paying 9.10 and 7.26 US dollars for the use of two pipelines plus an annual financial assistance of 3.2 billion USD as well as forgiveness of 4.9 billion USD in alleged debt. Amum also said the offer contains new proposal on holding a referendum organized by the African Union and the United Nations (UN).
Hussien told the newspaper that the president provided him with many observations and opinions which he added would help him and the negotiating teams in the rounds to follow.
The minister did not discount the possibility of a breakthrough in the 8 days remaining before the expiry of a deadline set by the UN Security Council (UNSC) for concluding the talks. However, he also warned that there are too many ups and downs in the talks due to what he called the hesitation of South Sudanese leaders in resorting to peace with Khartoum.
"They [South Sudan's leaders] are yet to decide their position on the issue of peace. If they end up choosing peace, they will find us waiting and welcoming. But if they choose otherwise, then they will find us ready and prepared for all sorts of scenarios" Hussein said.
Hussien also commented on the parallel talks between the government and the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement North (SPLM-N) on allowing humanitarian assistance in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states.
He pointed out that the talks with SPLM-N stem from the nine principles enshrined in the Tripartite Initiative of the AU, UN and the Arab League on providing humanitarian assistance to the affected population in the two border regions.
Khartoum's "humanitarian" talks with the SPLM-N were due to start Addis Ababa on Monday, 23 July, according to the AU which is moderating the negotiations.
The SPLM-N insisted through its secretary-general Yasir Arman that the talks are purely about humanitarian affairs and will not touch on any political issues.