Sudanese foreign minister to visit Juba on Friday

KHARTOUM Thu May 16, 2013 5:02pm EDT

Sudanese Foreign Minister Ali Ahmed Karti addresses the 67th United Nations General Assembly at the U.N. Headquarters in New York, September 29, 2012. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

Sudanese Foreign Minister Ali Ahmed Karti addresses the 67th United Nations General Assembly at the U.N. Headquarters in New York, September 29, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Eduardo Munoz

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KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Sudan's Foreign Minister Ali Ahmed Karti will visit South Sudan on Friday, state media said, the first high-level meeting between the neighbors since Khartoum accused Juba of supporting rebels who launched a major attack three weeks ago.

Both African countries agrees in March to restart crucial cross-border oil flows and end tensions that has existed since the south seceded in 2011.

But despite this thaw, Sudan accused South Sudan on Saturday of supporting a rebel alliance which launched a surprise attack on the central Sudanese city of Um Rawaba.

In the first high-level contact since then, Karti will visit Juba with intelligence chief Mohamed Atta to deliver a letter regarding bilateral relations from President Omar Hassan al-Bashir to South Sudan's Salva Kiir, state news agency SUNA said.

Diplomats hope both sides, which fought one of Africa's longest civil wars that ended with a 2005 peace deal, will continue to improve ties and work to end remaining conflicts over disputed territory left after their messy split in 2011.

The attack in Um Rawaba, normally a placid commercial hub, was conducted by an alliance of three rebel groups from Darfur, scene of a decade-long rebellion of non-Arab tribes, and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-North).

The SPLM-North is made up of fighters who sided with the south during the civil war. Like the Darfur rebels, they complain of marginalization in Sudan a country controlled by an Arab elite in Khartoum.

Sudan and South Sudan came close to war in April 2012 when border skirmishes broke out over oil exports fees, rebel support and disputed territory.

(Reporting by Ulf Laessing; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

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