Leaders of Sudan, South Sudan to meet in second push for peace
KHARTOUM (Reuters) - The leaders of Sudan and South Sudan will hold their second summit in a month on January 24, a Sudanese official said on Tuesday, in a fresh bid to defuse tensions over oil, territory and other disputes.
The neighbors came close to war in April in the worst border clashes since South Sudan declared independence from Sudan in 2011.
After mediation from the African Union, both agreed in September to resume oil exports from the landlocked South through Sudan, a lifeline for both struggling economies.
But mutual distrust remains deep and neither side has yet withdrawn its armies from the border, a condition for both to restart oil flows.
The AU brought Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir and his South Sudan counterpart Salva Kiir together in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa at the start of the month to end the stalemate.
"The presidents will continue their discussions in Addis Ababa on January 24 according to the schedule agreed at their (first) summit," Bashir's media secretary Emad Said Ahmed told Reuters.
South Sudan's Information Minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin could not be reached on his mobile phone. South Sudan has said Kiir is always willing to meet Bashir.
Security officials from both countries are currently holding talks in Addis Ababa to discuss practical steps to set up a buffer zone along the disputed border.
The deal has been complicated by fighting on the Sudanese side of the boundary between Sudan's army and SPLM-North rebels who have vowed to topple Bashir.
Khartoum say South Sudan supports the insurgents. Juba denies that and says Sudan is backing militias in its territory.
South Sudan became independent in July 2011 under a peace agreement which ended decades of civil war fuelled by ideology, oil, ethnicity and religion.