By Timeslive and Agencies
September 25, 2012
The leaders of Sudan and South Sudan reached agreemnt on economic issues while they failed to strike a deal on Monday in ongoing talks on security and border issues. Talks continue today.
Former civil war foes President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan and his Southern counterpart Salva Kiir are facing the looming threat of UN Security Council sanctions unless they reach a deal, after they missed a Saturday deadline.
The second day of direct meetings broke for the night late on Monday, with sticking points reported to be contested border regions and security issues.
“The meetings continue on Tuesday…the issues will be discussed,” top South Sudanese official Deng Alor told reporters after the presidents ended the day’s talks, with delegates on both sides apparently gloomy at the chance of a deal.
Sudanese delegation official El-Obeid Morawah said that “progress had been made” but did not give clear details, adding that the presidents would resume talks on Tuesday.
The protracted talks under African Union mediation began in the Ethiopian capital several months before South Sudan split in July 2011 from what was Africa’s biggest nation, following an independence vote after decades of war.
The leaders on Monday first met for talks hosted by new Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn in the presidential palace, alongside AU chief mediator and former South African president Thabo Mbeki.
The pair launched talks late on Sunday, following marathon efforts by their rival delegations to close gaps on a raft of issues left unresolved when the South became independent last year.
Key issues include the ownership of contested regions along their frontier, especially the flashpoint Abyei region, and the setting up of a demilitarised border zone after bloody clashes.
The buffer zone would also potentially cut support for rebel forces in Sudan’s Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile regions that Khartoum accuses Juba of backing, just as the South accuses Sudan of arming rebels in its territory.
The United Nations set a deadline for a deal after brutal border clashes broke out in March, when Southern troops and tanks briefly wrested the valuable Heglig oil field from Khartoum’s control, and Sudan launched bombing raids in response.
UN leader Ban Ki-moon has called on the leaders to tackle their remaining differences, “so that their summit concludes with a success that marks an end to the era of conflict”.
Despite slow progress, both sides appeared apparently keen to end the conflict and a stalemate over stalled oil production that is crippling their respective economies.
“Gloomy talk or stalling progress can be in itself a negotiating tactic, there is a still chance of deal,” a Western diplomat said.
A comprehensive deal, as opposed to another stepping-stone agreement, would have to include a settlement on Abyei, a Lebanon-sized border area claimed by both sides and currently controlled by Ethiopian peacekeepers.
But amidst the diplomatic optimism, there seemed little chance of a breakthrough to solve the growing humanitarian crises in Sudan’s civil war states of Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile.
However, it was hoped the summit would settle the details of last month’s deal to fix the oil export fees that landlocked South Sudan will pay to ship crude through Khartoum’s pipelines to the Red Sea.
At independence, Juba took two-thirds of the region’s oil, but processing and export facilities remained in Sudan. In January, the South shut off oil production after accusing Sudan of stealing its oil.