Khartoum — The presidents of Sudan Omer Hassan al-Bashir and his South Sudanese counterpart Salva Kiir agreed on implementing several outstanding items pertaining to Abyei, cooperation agreements and the disputed areas but without resolving any of the long-standing conflicts.
The two leaders met in Addis Ababa since Friday night at the invitation of the Ethiopian Prime Minister Haile Mariam Desalegne for discussions on the implementation of the cooperation agreements signed last September as well as the contentious issues of Abyei and contested border areas.
Khartoum has long insisted that there can be no forward movement on any of the sticking points without Juba ending its alleged support to Sudan People Liberation Movement North (SPLM-N) fighting the Sudanese army in the border states of South Kordofan and Blue Nile.
Juba denies Khartoum’s accusations and calls for executing the agreements and particularly the one regarding oil exports given the dire economic situation in both countries.
The landlocked South Sudan was meant to resume oil production last November with the first exports to hit markets by January. But Sudan’s insistence on implementing security arrangements first hindered the resumption of oil production in the newborn nation.
South Sudan is to pay Sudan to route its crude through northern pipelines ending a row that led to the shutdown of the entire southern output of 350,000 barrels a day.
Following a series of meetings on Friday and Saturday in the Ethiopian capital the African Union mediation team released a statement announcing an agreement on the establishment of Abyei Area Administration, Abyei Area Council and the Abyei Area Police Service.
The two sides are to continue negotiations on the final status of Abyei and the issue of the referendum and eligibility criteria.
Sudan rejected a proposal submitted by the AU mediation and supported by the AU Peace and Security Council (AUPSC) which calls for the holding the referendum next October without the participation of the Arab Misseriya tribesmen.
The AU had demanded a solution for Abyei by September and then said it would make a binding proposal before giving the parties until December 2012 to do a deal.
Both countries are also to implement the cooperation agreement particularly the security portion and the mediation team will come up with a time matrix for that on January 13th. The latter is the date when the Joint Security Committee will meet.
It was also agreed that the work of the Joint Committee on the establishment of demilitarized zone would resume without delay. The committee met in Addis Ababa last December agreed to set up the buffer zone and resume talks this month. At the time the Sudanese defense minister Abdel-Rahim Mohamed Hussein said Juba agreed for the first time to discuss their relationship with SPLM-N.
The AU mediation team also said that Kiir reiterated his pre-independence position that they severed ties with SPLM-N but it was not clear whether this would be a sufficient assurance for Sudan. Kiir would soon respond to a mediation letter with respect to this issue.
In press statement made following the return of the Sudanese President to Khartoum, Sayed al-Khateeb who is a member of the government negotiating team said Bashir and Kiir agreed on disengagement between the SPLA in South Sudan and 9th and 10th divisions in the Blue Nile and South Kordofan.
He pointed out that the two leaders held direct talks which resulted in a "good" outcome.
Al-Khateeb denied any addition or amendments to the September deals stressing that the two countries only agreed to speed up implementation.
The mediation said that Khartoum and Juba will proceed with demarcating the agreed-on portion of the borders which is estimated to be 80%. Kiir and Bashir would meet at a future date to discuss the remaining areas.
The border areas have witnessed increased tension particularly in the South Sudan state of Bahr el Ghazal which was a target of raids by the Sudanese army attacking alleged rebel positions of SPLM-N and Darfur insurgents.