By Tesfa-Alem Tekle
June 21, 2012 (ADDIS ABABA) – Top negotiators from both Sudan and South Sudan have arrived in Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, yesterday to resume crises talks under the auspices of the African Union High-Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP).
- President Omar al-Bashir (right) with President Salva Kiir (middle) and mediator Thabo Mbeki (left) in Addis Ababa for talks, 2011 (Reuters)
Khartoum-Juba bilateral talks were set to resume Thursday, however representatives of the two sides have not met today as expected. They have instead held separate talks today with the AUHIP, and other members of the AU.
The two parties are expected to meet face to face tomorrow to resume their talks on outstanding issues in a bid to end disputes, sources told Sudan Tribune.
Sudan and South Sudan delegations at the level of the Joint Political and Security Mechanism (JSPM) ended the first round of talks on 7 June after failing to endorse a map to establish a buffer zone between the two countries.
South Sudan President Salva Kiir said his country will seek international arbitration to settle the border issue with Sudan while Khartoum kept refusing the map proposed by the mediation and Sudanese President Omer Al-Bashir described the mediation’s secretariat as "conspirators" against Sudan.
However, the AU chief Jean Ping and the UN Security Council reminded the two parties they are bound to negotiate under the resolution 2046 which allows sanctions if they fail to reach a deal within three months.
The AU and the UNSC further stressed that the parties have to negotiate the buffer zone under the proposed map because it serves only to establish the demilitarized zone and to implement security deal.
In Juba, Barnaba Marial Benjamin, minister of information, announced that South Sudanese delegation travelled to Addis Ababa with with open minds and the authority to discuss and reach a fair agreement.
He however slammed Sudan’s rejection to withdraw an police force to protect oil fields and accused the international community of double standards for not pressing Khartoum to to remove this force from the area.
"The United Nations Security Council should take it responsibility more seriously and make Sudan act without placing conditions. On what grounds do they [Khartoum] have not to withdraw police forces from Abyei? Why is the United Nations Security treating us differently?"
"When they asked for withdrawal we did it without making conditions. We withdrew all our forces. [...] Why the is the United Nations not making Khartoum to act," the minister asked alluding to the short occupation of Heglig by the SPLA.
The former civil war foes edged to engage themselves in to a full-scale war when clashes on border dispute escalated in April following South Sudan’s seizure of the oil region of Heglig.
The violence was the worst since South Sudan officially split from Sudan in July following decades of warfare between the two countries.
The spokesperson of the Sudanese delegation in Addis Ababa, Omer Dahab confirmed the arrival of the Sudanese negotiators headed by defense minister Abdel-Rahim Hussein. He also confirmed that the delegation held a meeting with the AU mediation and explained that they will meet the South Sudanese delegation on Friday.
He said that the government delegation reiterated its confidence in the African Union mediation stressing they came with an open mind to resume talks with the South Sudan.
Like Barnaba, Dahab stressed his delegation’s commitment to enforce the AU and UNSC resolutions and to respect the frame time of three months.
The UN Security Council on Monday welcomed the resumption of negotiations between Sudan and South Sudan. However it expressed concern over the implementation of efforts aimed at helping diffuse growing tensions.
The council noted a decline in tensions along the common frontiers and called on both sides to immediately commit themselves in implementing their obligations under its resolution and a roadmap put forward by the AU.
The last round of security talks held in Addis Ababa between Sudan and South Sudan broke off without any progress after the two sides failed to agree on establishing a demilitarized zone along their common border.
Reporters from Khartoum and Juba contributed to this story.