July 14, 2012 (ADDIS ABABA/KHARTOUM) - Presidents Omar al-Bashir and Salva Kiir met in the Ethiopian capital to discuss unresolved issues between the two countries for the first time since the clashes over Heglig in April this year.
- Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir (Centre L) shakes hands with his South Sudanese counterpart Salva Kiir on Saturday, 14 July in Addis Ababa (Getty)
The meeting sends encouraging and positive signs to the people of the two countries who are suffering from a severe economic crisis and to the international community, and expresses the countries serious commitment to reach a deal before the deadline of 2 August.
"The two presidents have agreed and instructed their negotiating teams to expedite negotiations and develop bold decisions in key areas as well as to reach agreements in all issues," South Sudan chief negotiator Pagan Amum told reporters after the private meeting.
"It was a good meeting," he further told reporters who gathered outside the meeting room at the Sheraton Hotel, where they met on Saturday evening.
Earlier during the day, the two presidents participated in a meeting of the African Union Peace and Security Council (AUPSC) chaired by the Ivory Coast president Alassane Ouattara. Bashir and Kiir joined the meeting room after finding themselves in the same room for the first time since last March.
During the AUSPC meeting the two presidents emphasised in their speeches their respective concerns.
Bashir underscored the security concern and the need to speed up the buffer zone implementation, saying there was no reason to contest Sudan’s current border because it served to give South Sudan its independence.
Kiir, on the other side, focused on the issue of oil transportation saying Juba wants clear commitment not to divert South Sudan’s production, and asked for international guarantees. He also stressed the need to reach a quick solution over the Abyei issue.
The delegations of the two countries have already agreed earlier this month to hold talks on all the outstanding issues as Juba reassured Khartoum of the implementation of the demilitarized zone and the presence of Darfur rebels in South Sudan. The Sudanese delegation also agreed with the mediation on the resumption of talks with the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement - North (SPLMN) rebels over South Kordofan and Blue Nile.
"I note with great satisfaction, the recent assertion by the two countries of their desire to return to a spirit of partnership in their negotiations in order to meet the 2 August deadline as determined in the African Union (AU) roadmap and the United Nation resolution 2046," said Jean Ping, Chairperson of the Commission of the AU, in his speech before the AUPSC meeting.
Pagan told reporters that Kiir reaffirmed in his meeting with Bashir that South Sudan has a strategic interests in improving its relations with all the neighbouring countries.
The chief negotiator also pointed out that the two parties have an opportunity to conclude a fair deal and to end hostilities. "We are ready to resume oil production if there is a fair deal, and there is a guarantee that there will be no diversion (of the oil)," he further stated.
After a session of talks in presence of their close aides and ministers, Bashir and Kiir held a one-on-one meeting.
The two men were seen in good moods, smiling and shaking hand after the private meeting as Bashir accompanied Kiir outside the room where they held their talks.
On 7 July 2012, Sudan and South Sudan announced they had reached agreement on a Comprehensive Strategic Approach, providing enhanced confidence, good faith and transparency to resolve the pending issues between the two countries.
They also committed themselves to resort to peaceful means to resolve their disputes and to not interfere in the internal affairs of each other.
Yesterday Pagan Amum, who is also the secretary general of the ruling party in Juba, in statements to Sudan Tribune praised the new spirit of the talks stressing that he believes the two sides will "get out with something positive".
"Peace is in the interest of our people. They need peace to prevail so that we can live side by side as friendly neighbours," he said.
The delegation of the two countries will hold non-stop meetings during the upcoming two weeks in order to finalise a deal over the outstanding matters before the 2 August.