3 October 2012

Sudan: Mbeki to Visit Khartoum, Juba Before AUPSC Meeting

Khartoum — African Union's (AU) chief mediator for Sudan and South Sudan, Thabo Mbeki, is due to begin on Wednesday a visit to Khartoum and Juba ahead of his report to the 21 October meeting of the AU Peace and Security Council (AUPSC) on the progress and failings of latest negotiations.

Mbeki, who heads the AU High-Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP), will hold talks with the leadership of both countries to decide a date for the beginning of a new round of negotiations on the issues left over from the previous round which led to the signing last week of a series of agreements covering oil, security and citizenship among others.

But the same round failed to arrive at an agreement over the contested border region of Abyei after Khartoum rejected an AUHIP proposal to hold a referendum in the area citing dissatisfaction with the voter eligibility criteria set in the proposal on the ground that it excludes members of the Arab nomadic tribe of al Messriyah who reside in the region few months a year to graze their cattle.

Mbeki's visit precedes the presentation of his report on 21 October to the meeting of the AUPSC in Addis Ababa regarding the progress achieved in the last round and preparations for the next round whose top agenda will be the issue of Abyei and other disputed regions.

Sources told Sudan Tribune that the AU official is seeking to ensure that the agreements signed will be approved by legislative and executive authorities in the two countries. They also said he wants to assess preparations by oil companies to resume production in line with the oil agreement.

In a related development, the official spokesperson of Sudan's foreign ministry, Al-Obaid Adam Marawih, has downplayed doubts about the commitment of Sudan and South Sudan to implementing their agreements. He said during an interview with the state radio on Wednesday that implementing the agreements on the ground would silence doubtful voices.

Marawih also said that the security arrangement agreement, which provides for the establishment of a buffer demilitarized zone along the 1800km common borders, will prevent Sudanese rebel groups from finding a foothold in South Sudan.

The Sudanese diplomat took the opportunity to urge the international community to buttress the agreement and provide safeguards and support to the two sides. He went on to say that the signing of the agreements has had a quick and positive effect on the economy as evidenced, he said, by the slight improvement of the exchange rate of the Sudanese pound against the US dollars.

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