Sudan and South Sudan Agree to Resume Talks Next Week

Source: Reuters 5/24/2012, Location: Africa

Sudan and South Sudan agreed to restart talks next week with the aim of ending hostilities and settling disputes after border clashes scuppered an earlier round of negotiations, both sides said. The two armies clashed last month in a disputed oil region near the poorly drawn border, coming closer to all-out war than at any time since South Sudan's independence last July.

The fighting prompted Sudan to say it was pulling out of the African Union-brokered talks, which were due to tackle issues including oil export payments, delineation of the border, debt and the respective status of each other's citizens. African Union mediator Thabo Mbeki met the presidents of both countries this week in an attempt to revive negotiations.

El-Obeid Morawah, spokesman for Sudan's Foreign Ministry, said the meeting would be on May 29 and South Sudan confirmed the date. "The government of South Sudan requested for a meeting to convene as soon as possible...We agreed to recommence negotiations on May 29," the office of top negotiator Pagan Amum told Reuters in a statement. The U.N. Security Council had endorsed an African Union resolution on May 2 that threatened both sides with sanctions unless they stopped fighting and resumed negotiations.

Western diplomats do not expect a quick breakthrough as the positions of the nations still seem wide apart. Sudan has said it wants to make security issues a priority and accuses the South of supporting rebels in Sudan's border states of South Kordofan and Blue Nile. South Sudan denies this and has accused Sudan of bombing its territory several times since the U.N. Security Council resolution was approved. The sides have also failed to agree how much the landlocked South should pay to export its oil through Sudan.

South Sudan took three-quarters of the oil output of the formerly united country when it became independent, but the export pipelines run through Sudan. Juba shut off its entire output of 350,000 barrels a day in January to stop Khartoum seizing oil in lieu of what it called unpaid fees.


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