Sudanese President, Omar Hassan Al-Bashir and South Sudanese leader, Salva Kiir are to meet in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa today, January 4, 2013 in a summit to help speed up discussions on their disputed border and the resumption of oil exports by South Sudan.
Sudan's official news agency, SUNA quoted the Sudanese Presidential Press Secretary, Emad Sid Ahmed, as saying the summit will seek to speed up the implementation of what was agreed last September in Addis Ababa by the two leaders. Today's talks follow a recent visit by the new Ethiopian Prime Minister, Hailemariam Desalegn to Khartoum and Juba in a bid to refresh peace efforts.
According to Sudan Tribune newspaper, Khartoum insists that security arrangements be a prerequisite for the implementation of any other agreements, particularly relating to resumption of oil exports from landlocked South Sudan. Sudan specifically wants South Sudan to end its alleged support for insurgents fighting Khartoum in the border states of Blue Nile and South Kordofan. Juba denies the claims, saying it is an internal Sudanese matter.
In a sign of goodwill, President Salva Kiir on December 31, 2012 said his country will withdraw its troops from frontier areas to allow for the operation of the proposed demilitarized border zone with Sudan. Neither country has yet withdrawn its respective army 10 km from the border to set up a buffer zone, a condition to restart the flow of southern oil through the north.
The African Union, backed by Western powers, had urged the holding of today's meeting in order to end a stalemate over how to set up a demilitarized buffer zone along the disputed border after the countries came close to war last April. South Sudan originally had hoped to resume oil exports by this month, but postponed turning on oil wells until the buffer zone is in place. Juba shut down its oil production - a vital source of revenue for both countries - in January 2012 after failing to agree on an export fee with Sudan, one of several disputes left over from South Sudan's independence in 2011.
South Sudan broke away from Sudan under a 2005 peace deal which ended decades of civil war, but both countries have yet to agree on ownership of several disputed border regions. The two rivals are also at odds over Abyei, an area between Sudan and South Sudan prized for its fertile grazing land.