May 28, 2012 (KHARTOUM) – South Sudan has accused Sudan of bombing its territories on the eve of their resumption of negotiations on post-referendum issues under the mediation of the African Union High Level Panel (AUHIP) in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.
- FILE PHOTO - Pagan Amum (left), chief negotiator from South Sudan, lead mediator for the African Union, Thabo Mbeki (centre) and Sudan’s head negotiator Idriss Abdu Qadir , attend African Union-led talks between Sudan and South Sudan in Addis Ababa on March 13, 2012 (GETTY)
The negotiating teams of Sudan and South Sudan arrived in Addis Ababa on Monday to prepare for the start on Tuesday of their first round of talks since they floundered dangerously towards the beginning of April leading to the outbreak of the most serious fighting between the two neighbours since South Sudan gained independence last year.
Both countries have been given a three-month deadline by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) and the African Union (AU) to conclude negotiations over citizenship, oil exports, demarcation of borders and the status of Abyei region.
The AUHIP led by former South African President Thabo Mbeki had already began preparing the agenda of the talks with the participation of three representatives from each side, Sudan Tribune was told.
Khartoum announced on Monday that it would immediately withdraw the Sudanese army (SAF) from Abyei which it occupied in May last year. SAF’s official spokesman said the move aims to send a sign of goodwill ahead of the start of the talks.
But Juba accused SAF of continuing military assaults inside South Sudanese territories. According to Philp Aguer, the official spokesperson of South Sudan’s army known as SPLA, the Sudanese army has for the last three days been bombing parts of Northern Bahr El Ghazal State. He also said that SAF used long-range artillery in the attacks.
South Sudan’s top negotiator, Pagan Amum, echoed the same allegations. “They are bombing South Sudan, attacking South Sudan, and continuing to send armed groups to destabilise South Sudan, these are not the signs of peace.” Amum, however, said he was still “optimistic” that the next round would go ahead.
In response, SAF’s spokesperson, Colonel Al-Sawarmi Khalid Sa’ad, denied South Sudan’s accusations. He challenged Juba to prove its allegations and asserted that SAF had nothing to do with what is happening inside South Sudan.
Meanwhile in Khartoum, the ministry of foreign affairs clarified that the government’s insistence on discussing security issues as a matter of priority was not “a precondition” to engage in talks.
The ministry’s spokesperson Al-Obaid Adam Marawih said that any agreement reached on citizenship, oil or borders would eventually be “worthless” if there is a flaring war and mutual distrust between the two countries.
“That’s why we say the security dossier should be the priority” he said. However, he was keen to point out that this position does not mean that Khartoum treats security as a “precondition” to the talks.
“We are prepared to look at other issues but we accord priority to the security dossier because, in our view, it is the right gateway to restoring trust between the two countries” Marawih concluded.
Also in Khartoum, Sudan’s president Omer Al-Bashir and first Vice-President Ali Osman Mohammed Taha held a meeting on Monday with the country’s negotiating delegation. Al-Bashir renewed his confidence in the delegation and gave it full authority to settle all agendas at the negotiation table.
The Sudanese delegation that left Khartoum to Addis Ababa is headed by Idris Mohammed Abdel Gadir and includes the following members: Mohammed Mukhtar, Said Al-Khatib, Mutrif Sidiq and Sabir Mohammed Al-Hassan as well as a cohort of technicians and experts from SAF and the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS).
In a related development, the UN’s special envoy for Sudan and South Sudan, Haile Menkerios, urged the two sides in an interview with Radio Miraya to make “a strategic decision to resolve their differences through peaceful means” and “avoid mutual destruction.”