24 February 2013

South Sudan Optimistic of Kiir-Bashir Meeting At AU Summit

Juba/Khartoum — South Sudanese president Salva Kiir Mayardit may hold discussions over post secession issues with his Sudanese counterpart, Omer Ahmed Hassan Al Bashir, on the sideline of the upcoming African Union (AU) summit in Ethiopia, according to the information minister, Barnaba Marial.

Marial said president Kiir had received an invitation to attend the AU heads of state summit due to be held in March in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.

"We have not received any letter about a separate summit between the two heads of state. We have only received a letter inviting president Salva Kiir to the African Union heads of state summit. We expect president Bashir of Sudan to attend and if he attends there are possibilities of the two leaders meeting on the sideline, but this is the function of the African Union High level Implementation Panel (AUHIP) which is the one mediating the talks", Marial said on Saturday.

He was reacting to reports that the two presidents will either meet in a separate forum or on the margins of the summit.

He also pointed out that Kiir is open to hold discussions with the Sudanese president on any issue as long as long as they serve a fruitful purpose.

"President Kiir is ready to meet president Bashir anywhere at any time. There is no problem", Marial told Sudan Tribune in an interview on Saturday in the country's capital Juba.

However, Omer Sid Ahmed, a press adviser at the Sudanese president early this told the Akhir Lahza daily that his country had not been notified by the African Union mediators on such any summit between the two leaders.

The presidents of Sudan and South Sudan signed a series of cooperation agreements last September aimed at resolving long-running conflicts between the two countries, but have so far failed to implement most of the conditions.

At last month's AU summit with several African leaders in Ethipia, both Bashir and Kiir agreed to implement the cooperation agreement and observe the outcome of the AU Peace and Security Council (AUPSC) meeting held on Friday 25 January at the level of heads of states and governments.

The meeting, organised by the Ethiopian Prime Minister, aimed at putting pressure on the two sides, with the AUSPC opting not to refer the issue of Abyei to the UN Security Council (UNSC), preferring instead to keep the issue within the remit of the AU.

The AUPSC has already expressed concern over the persistent differences in the implementation of the cooperation agreement, and underscored the different interpretations of the signed deals.

Besides constant disagreements over, Abyei, as well as alleged relations between the South Sudanese government and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) rebels, the two countries recently showed divergent points of view over troop withdrawals in "Mile 14", a disputed area on the common border.

Talks between the two parties earlier this year broke down over disagreements regarding security, border demarcation and the final status of the disputed Abyei area. The situation has caused a stalemate between the two countries, with Khartoum refusing to accept passage of South Sudan's oil flows through its territories unless Juba ends its alleged support for SPLM-N rebels, which is fighting the Sudanese army in the north's restive Blue Nile and South Kordofan states.

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