Sudan says to release five South Sudanese soldiers
KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Sudan is to free five South Sudanese soldiers it captured trying to cross the poorly-defined border last year as a sign of goodwill, state news agency SUNA said on Wednesday.
The African neighbors came close to war in April over territory and oil payments, the worst violence since South Sudan seceded under a 2011 peace deal which ended decades of civil war.
Both countries agreed in September to defuse hostilities but have failed to implement several agreements brokered by the African Union to set up a buffer zone to secure the border and restart oil exports from the South through Sudan.
South Sudan has accused Sudan of holding an unspecified number of prisoners since several weeks of fighting in April along the disputed 2,000 km (1,300 miles) border.
Sudan's military spokesman al-Sawarmi Khalid told SUNA the army would hand over the soldiers on Monday to the International Committee of the Red Cross in Nyala in Darfur in western Sudan.
The five soldiers, which SUNA named on its website, were captured trying to infiltrate into South Darfur state, which borders South Sudan, "mid-last year", he said. SUNA gave no exact date.
South Sudanese officials were not immediately available to comment.
Sudan called on South Sudan to release all Sudanese soldiers in captivity, SUNA said. It did not say how many soldiers Sudan believes are being held in the South, naming only one officer who it said had been imprisoned in Juba for more than two years.
South Sudan's army released 13 Sudanese soldiers after the end of fighting in April.
South Sudan shut down its oil output of 350,000 barrels a day a year ago in a row with Sudan over pipeline fees, throwing both economies into turmoil.
(Reporting by Ulf Laessing; Editing by Jon Hemming)