18 December 2012

Sudan Announces Surprise Breakthrough in Security Talks With Juba

Photo: Isaac Billy/UN Photo
Sudanese president Omar Al-Bashir and South Sudan president Salva Kiir (file photo).

Khartoum — In a surprising turn of events, Sudan has announced a major breakthrough in talks with South Sudan, saying all obstacles facing the implementation of a border security deal they signed in September have been surmounted, but it is not clear whether the two sides managed to break the deadlock over Khartoum's demands that Juba disarms the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement North (SPLM-N).

According to the official spokesperson of the Sudanese army (SAF), Al-Sawarmi Khalid Sa'ad, members of the Joint Political and Security Committee (JPSM) of the two countries reached a deal at the conclusion of their latest round of talks held in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa on Tuesday.

Quoted in a report published by Sudan's official news agency, SUNA, on Wednesday, Sa'ad said that an agreement of 11 points was reached to overcome all the obstacles that faced the implementation of the eight cooperation agreements signed between the two countries on 27 September.

The deals signed included an agreement to resume South Sudan's oil exports via Sudan but Khartoum insisted that Juba must first implement the border security deal and sever alleged ties with the SPLM-N which is fighting the Sudanese government in the country's border regions of South Kordofan and Blue Nile.

Two rounds of JPSM meetings in Juba and Khartoum failed to break the deadlock as South Sudan complained that Khartoum is making impossible demands by asking Juba to disarm SPLM-N which fought as part of South Sudan army before independence.

SAF's spokesperson said he expects the sub-deal to "lead to concrete work in the field of disengagement and cessation of support to rebel groups in particular and security arrangements in general"

Al-Sawarmi said that the two sides had agreed to "implement all the agreements relating to security arrangements and activate border monitoring mechanisms and verification of complaints." Furthermore, he said the two sides agreed to create a timeframe for the implementation of all the agreed agendas, adding that the two sides will also begin technical and administrative preparations to open cross-border routes.

He went on to say that the agreement also confirmed that military forces of both countries will withdraw from all disputed areas and operationalize the implementation of the demilitarized safe border zone as agreed under the security deal.

According to Al-Sawarmi, the two sides agreed to ensure that no states will recruit fighters from the other and verify the demobilization of fighters from the other country "through the procedures agreed for that"

Sudan accuses Juba of maintaining ties with SPLM-N which Khartoum continues to refer to as the ninth and tenth divisions of South Sudan's army SPLA.

Al-Sawarmi also said that the joint commissions will create timeframes for the deployment of monitors to verify the implementation of the buffer demilitarized zone.

Sudan's announcement comes as a surprise given the fact that South Sudan's top negotiator Pagan Amum said on Tuesday that the talks are deadlocked. "The talks now are deadlocked and, essentially, I see these talks as having collapsed because Sudan has taken a new strategic position opposing the development of cooperation between the two states," he told Reuters in an interview.

Amum said he sees no point in continuing the talks and that Juba should start looking for alternatives to export its oil.

SAF's spokesperson said that the JPSM will hold its next meeting on 13 January in order to assess progress in implementation what has been agreed.

Sudan's interior minister Ibrahim Hamid, meanwhile, confirmed to Al-Shorog TV that the current round of talks adjourned until 13 January when the contentious issues will be discussed.

Hamid said that the talks produced an agreement to setup a mechanism to oversee implementation of the security deal.

He added that the mechanism will be chaired by the commander-in-chief of the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) and consist of officials from both sides.

The minister said he personally opines that the round achieved a great breakthrough in many issues but he declined to divulge more details.

There is no comment from South Sudan so far on the developments announced by Khartoum.

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