1 September 2013

Sudan: Kiir to Visit Khartoum On Tuesday

Photo: Charlton Doki/IPS
Oil storage facilities at Bentiu, Unity State, South Sudan.

Khartoum/Juba — South Sudan has announced that president Salva Kiir Mayardit will pay an official working visit next Tuesday to the Sudanese capital Khartoum for bilateral talks with his counterpart Omer Hassan Al-Bashir.

In Khartoum, the Sudanese foreign ministry welcomed the "important visit" of the South Sudanese president expressing hopes that it would speed up the implementation of the cooperation agreements and resolve the pending issues in a way to lay foundation for solid strategic relations between the neighbouring countries.

Foreign ministry spokesperson Mawien Makol told Sudan Tribune on Sunday that an advance team had already left the country for Khartoum. SUNA, the pro-Khartoum government website also confirmed the arrival of Charles Manyang, South Sudan foreign affairs undersecretary.

This will be Kiir's second visit to Sudan and follows Bashir's one day visit in 2012. Discussion will centre on host of post of secession matters which the two sides have been unable to resolve despite holding numerous high-level summits, according to a senior diplomat.

Also the visit takes place three days before the end of a deadline Khartoum had fixed to stop oil exportation over accusations of support to rebel groups.

"The members of the advance team are going to prepare the ground for the visit of the president", he said.

The minister of foreign affairs, Barnaba Marial, the minister of Petroleum and Mining, Stephn Dhieu Dau, among others will accompany the president on the visit.

Kiir had been due to visit Khartoum earlier this month, with the delay attributed to recent political developments in South Sudan, in which the president removed his deputy and dissolved his entire cabinet.

According to Makol, the issue of Abyei and the need to clarify all conditions attached to the full flow of oil between the countries would likely dominate the discussion between the two heads of state.

He expressed hope that the two heads of state will use the summit as an opportunity to discuss the way forward on the final status of the contested border region.

"I have a trust in the leadership under Sudan president Salva Kiir Mayardit that it will continue to work for [the] realisation of peace and stability between the two countries", he said.

"Our president has made it a point that he would not see the two countries return to war during his time. This is a clear commitment that shows the willingness to resolve differences through peaceful dialogue and not otherwise", he added.

Makol said his country's leadership attaches great importance on the summit as it will contribute to building stable and mutually beneficial relations between the two nations for the benefit of their people.

"This visit by the president is intended to confirm not only our willingness and commitment to fully implement the cooperation agreement but to open up to a new diplomatic era in building and promoting healthy, friendly and strategic relations between the two countries", he said.

The visit comes amid a number of contentious developments which have strained relations between Khartoum and Juba.

In June, Sudan notified South Sudan in June of its intention to halt oil flows, amid ongoing allegations of rebel support, later agreeing to extend the shutdown deadline until 6 September. However Sudanese officials recently expressed their satisfaction of the good cooperation that Juba shows on this respect.

ABYEI, BOND OF CONTENTION

But Khartoum informed South Sudan that it continued to reject holding a unilateral referendum in Abyei should it ignore involvement of the Arab Misseriya tribe.

South Sudan has maintained that holding a referendum is the only way to break the deadlock over the future of the oil-producing region.

"It is our belief that the only solution to the dispute over Abyei is to conduct a referendum as it was agreed by the two parties. Conducting a referendum for the people of Abyei to decide their fate is something we have all agreed and it should be implemented", he said.

Makol, who is not be part of the delegation accompanying the president, was not able to comment on the length of the president's intended visit, saying it was likely to be a day or two.

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