Sudan says to resume security talks with South Sudan next week
KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Sudan will resume talks with South Sudan next week to discuss how to set up a demilitarized border zone, a condition for resuming southern oil exports through the north, state news agency SUNA said on Tuesday.
In September, the neighbors agreed to end hostilities and revive oil exports after coming close to war in April, the worst violence since South Sudan seceded last year. Juba had shut down in January its oil production of 350,000 barrels a day after tensions over pipeline fees escalated.
But the northeast African countries have been unable to agree how withdraw their armies from the disputed border, a step both had said was necessary to resume oil exports from the landlocked South through northern pipelines.
In a gesture to defuse tensions, Sudanese Defense Minister Abdel Raheem Mohammed Hussein told SUNA a joint committee tasked with setting up the border zone would meet from December 3-6.
"He expressed hope that the meeting would lead to the implementation of the cooperation (oil export) agreement between the two countries," SUNA said. It did not say whether the delegations would meet.
South Sudan's government could not be immediately reached for comment.
On Monday, South Sudanese President Salva Kiir accused Sudan of putting new obstacles in the way by demanding that Juba needed first to disarm rebels fighting the Khartoum government inside Sudanese territory.
Sudan has not publicly responded to the comments but has accused South Sudan of supporting rebels of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-North), which operate in two states bordering South Sudan.
Juba denies backing the SPLM-North, which seeks together with rebels from the western region of Darfur to topple Sudan's veteran president, Omar Hassan al-Bashir.
The tensions in the past few days have delayed resuming oil production in South Sudan that had been originally scheduled for November 15, a serious blow to both crumbling economies.
South Sudan inherited three-quarters of Sudan's oil production when it seceded but needs to pay Khartoum for using northern export pipelines to the Red Sea coast.
South Sudan became independent in July 2011 after a referendum agreed under a 2005 peace agreement which ended decades of civil war between the Muslim north and South, where most follow Christian and African beliefs.
Apart from resuming oil exports both countries must decide the fate of disputed border regions.
(Reporting by Ulf Laessing in Khartoum and Hereward Holland in Juba; Editing by Mark Heinrich)
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