Sudan: New Setback for AU Mediated Talks Between North & South Sudan

Khartoum — The talks between neighboring states of Sudan and South Sudan have been adjourned till mid-February after the two sides failed to forge an agreement on a wide array of security and border issues.

Former South African president Thabo Mbeki, who chairs an African Union (AU) panel tasked with mediating between Sudan and South Sudan on post-secession issues (ASHRAF SHAZLY/AFP/Getty Images)

The Sudanese defense minister Abdel-Rahim Mohamed Hussein speaking at a press conference in Khartoum airport said that the African Union (AU) mediation team led by former South African president Thabo Mbeki has submitted a proposal to the negotiating teams of the two countries.

The top Sudanese military official said that the two countries failed to resolve their differences over the disputed region of Abyei, borders, disengagement 9th and 10th divisions in Blue Nile and South Kordofan from South Sudan's People Liberation Army (SPLA) and defining Mile-14 area.

South Sudan became the world's newest country after voting for independence in a 2011 vote, taking with it three-quarters of the former united country's roughly 500,000 barrels per day of oil production.

The split left a long list of unresolved issues; including Abyei, how to share oil revenues and other assets, and how to end border violence.

Hussein described South Sudan's stances as "wiggly" following the meeting of the Joint Political and Security Mechanism (JPSM) in Addis Ababa which started last week between Khartoum and Juba.

However he said that they agreed on implementing the cooperation deals signed last September relating to oil and other economic issues but reiterated Khartoum's position that security pacts must be finalized first.

The defense minister said that points of disagreements will be presented to Sudanese president Omer Hassan al-Bashir and his South Sudanese counterpart Salva Kiir for a resolution.

He disclosed that they asked the AU mediation for an emergency meeting to discuss breaking ties between Juba and Sudanese insurgents in South Kordofan and Blue Nile as well as South Sudan's alleged hosting of rebel leaders.

Hussein accused South Sudan of backtracking on the agreement defining Mile-14 border area and how to demilitarize it.

The Sudanese Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Saturday that South Sudan refused to establish monitoring and verification mechanisms to check disengagement between its army and rebels in the border states. The ministry accused South Sudan of lacking seriousness.

The statement said that South Sudan's delegation demonstrated "double intransigence" by refusing to sign what was already agreed upon while recognizing the points of disagreements. It added that South Sudan frustrated outcome of previous Bashir-Kiir summits and bilateral agreements that have took huge efforts to reach.

The foreign ministry claimed that South Sudan completely reneged on implementation of Mile-14 area arrangements by insisting on partial withdrawal of its forces.

Furthermore both countries disagreed on formation of Abyei legislative assembly as South Sudan wanted a majority (12 members) instead of splitting it equally, the statement said.

It added that South Sudan placed a new condition on working with Khartoum on debt relief namely that Sudan withdraws all claims made by Sudapet oil company against Juba.

At a news conference in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, South Sudan minister for justice and acting lead negotiator John Luk Jok placed the blame squarely on Khartoum particularly over the "unjustifiable and persistent" demands for "disengagement and disarmament" of Sudanese rebels in the border regions.

"They are demanding disengagement of the SPLM-North with the SPLA and to conduct disarmament of their own rebels by another sovereign state. They want the Republic of South Sudan to move into Sudanese territory and disarm their rebels which is not logical" Jok said.

"We believe there is nothing which the government of South Sudan has not done. We have done everything in our capacity and it is time for the African leaders and the international community to intervene and play critical role and responsibilities to halting dispute as soon as possible. The international community should intervene very, very urgently", he said.

The AU mediation team however, painted a different picture of the talks.

"[T]he Parties made substantial progress and agreed on three critical issues: a detailed and time-bound implementation matrix covering all security issues; a matrix for processing security-related complaints and concerns of the Parties?which the Parties have started to use; and, the speedy establishment of the Safe Demilitarized Border Zone (SDBZ)" said a statement by the African Union High Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP).

"The AUHIP welcomes the progress made by the Parties, and is encouraged by the continued engagement of the delegations towards the implementation of the cooperation agreements. The AUHIP will continue to engage the Parties, and is confident that the occasion of the forthcoming African Union Summit at the end of January, will present a further opportunity for the two Presidents to make further progress in resolving the outstanding issues, which are critical for the establishment of peaceful relations between the two states and for their mutual viability and prosperity".

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