19 December 2012

Ethiopia: Sudan, South Sudan Agree On Demilitarized Border Zone

Photo: Tim McKulka/ UN Photo
Troops patrol Abyei - one of the disputed areas that lies on the border of both countries (file photo).

The Chief Mediator of the African Union's High Level Implementation Panel, Thabo Mbeki, said yesterday (December 18) that Sudan and South Sudan have agreed to implement the security agreement to establish the Safe Demilitarized Border Zone (SMBZ) between the two countries.

Delegations of the Sudanese and South Sudanese Joint Political and Security Mechanism (JPSM) agreed on the security arrangements at the talks in Addis Ababa on Tuesday. Mr. Mbeki said the two sides had agreed "that steps will be taken immediately to ensure the creation of a safe demilitarized border zone. They have agreed on where that border zone is: [this means] that any South Sudanese forces that are north of that zone should move south -- 10 kilometers away from the center line, and the Sudan forces would also move 10 kilometers north of that border line."

Mr. Mbeki added "Now in the agreement it says within seven days, but in reality it's going to take longer. And the reason it will take longer is because in particular locations where these troops will be [are] positions [where] there is no water. So work will have to be done to make sure that water is provided for the troops that will be located there".

South Sudan's defense minister, John Kong Nyuon, said that an ad hoc commission has been established in case there are disagreements on how the accords are implemented. If there are any complaints "the JPSM co-chairs will give the task to the ad hoc committee to verify and investigate the allegations and report to the co-chairs". If necessary the issue can be taken to the two heads of state," Nyuon said. Progress on the new agreements will be discussed at another meeting planned for January 13. "We will see what the results will be at that time and also discuss any other concerns that may arise," said Sudan's Defence Minister Abdel-Rahim Mohamed Hussein.

Discussion of other outstanding issues between the two sides - including the disposition of the Abyei region and disputed border areas - have been postponed until January. President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan and President Salva Kiir of South Sudan are expected to meet on the sidelines of the AU Summit to finalize those issues.

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