Sudan, South Sudan set to resume border talks

KHARTOUM Wed Mar 6, 2013 3:04pm EST

South Sudan's President Salva Kiir attends the opening ceremony of the 20th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Governments at the African Union (AU) headquarters in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa January 27, 2013. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri

South Sudan's President Salva Kiir attends the opening ceremony of the 20th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Governments at the African Union (AU) headquarters in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa January 27, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Tiksa Negeri

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KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Sudan and South Sudan will resume stalled talks on Thursday to set up a demilitarized border zone, Sudan's state news agency SUNA said on Wednesday, in a new attempt to resolve a conflict over oil and land.

The African neighbors came close to war in April in the worst border clashes since South Sudan seceded from Sudan in 2011 under a 2005 deal which ended decades of civil war.

After mediation from the African Union, both countries agreed in September to set up a buffer zone along their disputed border and resume oil exports from landlocked South Sudan through Sudan. Oil is vital to both economies.

But neither side has withdrawn its army from the almost 2,000-km (1,200-mile) border due to mistrust left from one of Africa's longest civil wars.

Two meetings of Sudan's President Omar Hassan al-Bashir and South Sudan's Salva Kiir in Addia Ababa in January failed to break the deadlock.

In the first talks for more than six weeks, the joint political security committee, comprising defense officials from both countries tasked with setting up the buffer zone, will meet again in Ethiopia, SUNA said.

The meeting would prepare a session of the two defense ministers, SUNA said, without giving details.

South Sudan's Information Minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin could not be reached on his mobile phone.

At the last meeting on January 19, both sides traded accusations of making new demands for the border zone. Khartoum also accuses Juba of backing rebels of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-North) in South Kordofan and Blue Nile, two Sudan states bordering the South. Juba denies this.

The SPLM-North, made up of fighters who sided with the South during the civil war, controls part of the Sudan side of the border, which complicates setting up the buffer zone.

South Sudan, which says Sudan often bombs its territory, shut down its entire oil output of 350,000 barrels per day (bpd) in January 2012 after failing to agree export and transit fees with Khartoum.

Apart from oil and the buffer zone, the two countries must also agree on ownership of Abyei and other disputed areas.

(Reporting by Ulf Laessing; Editing by Michael Roddy)

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