April 25, 2012 (KHARTOUM) – The African Union Peace and Security Council (AUPSC) unveiled a new roadmap aimed at resolving the ongoing conflict between Sudan and South Sudan in the wake of the worst military confrontation since the East African nation split into two last year.
- In this Tuesday, April 24, 2012 photo, Sudanese workers inspect burnt out oil pipes at the oil-rich border town of Heglig, Sudan (AP)
Sudan managed to take back the oil-rich region of Heglig in South Kordofan last Friday after a 10-day occupation by South Sudan’s army (SPLA). Southern Sudanese officials denied being forced out and insisted that they voluntarily withdrew.
Juba claimed that the area belongs to Unity State and was administratively annexed decades ago into South Kordofan.
However, the AUSPC in its meeting yesterday stressed that north-south borders are defined “as that existing at the time of Sudan’s independence on 1 January 1956, taking into account the disputed areas as agreed in the deliberations of the Technical ad hoc Boundary Committee”.
Border demarcation is one of the key pending issues between the two neighbours that have yet to be resolved despite intense efforts by an AU mediation team.
“Council reiterates that the territorial boundaries of states shall not be altered by force, and that any territorial disputes shall be settled exclusively by peaceful means”.
The AUPSC also expressed disappointment that an agreement over Abyei signed last year has not been implemented in an apparent reference to non-withdrawal of north and south Sudanese forces from the disputed region.
Negotiations between Khartoum and Juba are to resume within two weeks to reach an agreement on oil, citizenship, borders and Abyei, the AUPSC decided. A deal needs to be sealed within three months, according to the road map.
“Should these negotiations fail to result in an agreement on any or all of the issues identified above within the allotted timeframe of three months, Council requests the [AU High-Level Implementation Panel] AUHIP to submit to it a comprehensive report on the status of the negotiations, including detailed proposals on all outstanding issues, to be endorsed as final and binding solutions to the post-secession relations”.
The seven-point roadmap called on both sides to cease hostilities within 48 hours and called for the "unconditional" withdrawal of troops from disputed areas. It also called for cessation of harbouring of, or support to, rebel groups against the other state and cessation of hostile propaganda and inflammatory statements in the media.
The Pan-African body will take “appropriate measures” should there be “failure by either Party to implement the provisions of the Roadmap …..or to cooperate in good faith”.
Sudanese President Omer Hassan al-Bashir has ruled out a return to talks with Juba, saying South Sudan’s government only understands "the language of guns". However, Sudanese Foreign Minister Ali Karti said yesterday that Khartoum was ready to negotiate on "security issues" only at first.