July 12, 2012 (KHARTOUM) – Sudan and South Sudan on Thursday started a new round of talks in Ethiopia amid growing certainty of a meeting between the two countries’ presidents on the margins of an African Union (AU) summit in Addis Ababa.
- President Omar al-Bashir (R) walks out with Thabo Mbeki (left) and President Salva Kiir Mayardit after a meeting in 2011 [©Reuters]
President Omer Al-Bashir of Sudan is expected to travel on Friday to Addis Ababa where he will participate in the 19th AU summit which will be held from 14 to 16 July under the theme, “boosting intra-African trade” and will discuss among other issues the relations between Sudan and South Sudan.
The summit was supposed to be held in Malawi but AU decided to move it to Ethiopia after the southern African country refused to host Al-Bashir citing his indictment by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide he allegedly masterminded in his country’s western region of Darfur.
Bashir’s trip to Ethiopia will follow the resumption on Thursday of post-secession talks between Sudan and South Sudan. Sudan Tribune understands that the venue of the talks was moved from Addis Ababa to the north western city of Bahir Dar.
The two parties adjourned their AU mediated talks last week and announced after ward the adoption of a “strategic” approach focusing on the creation of a demilitarized zone along their borders.
According to officials on both sides, the new approach is hoped to lead to quick progress in future talks in order to meet the 2 August deadline set by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) for the two countries to conclude talks on the issues of oil, citizenship, the status of Abyei and other disputed regions.
The official spokesman of Sudan’s team in the Joint Political and Security Mechanism (JPSM), Omer Dahab, said in an interview with Sudan state radio on Thursday that the new round of talks is expected to be the longest given the fact that the UNSC deadline is approaching.
Dahab confirmed that the new round would be based on the new strategic approach. He also revealed that the Sudanese delegation is going to inform its South Sudanese counterpart of Khartoum’s condemnation of the assassination of the chairman of legislative council in South Kordofan State, Ibrahim Balndia, who was allegedly killed last week in an ambush by the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement North (SPLM-N), who Khartoum accuse South Sudan of aiding.
Meanwhile, the uncertainty surrounding prospects for a meeting between Bashir and his South Sudanese counterpart Salva Kiir Mayardit during the AU summit is being reversed.
Sudan’s defense minister Abdel Rahim Mohammed Hussien, who chairs the country’s delegation to the JPSM, said on Thursday that he does not rule out the possibility of meeting between the two presidents “although there is no prior arrangement to this effect”.
Last week, South Sudan government spokesperson and minister of information Barnaba Marial Benjamin confirmed that the two leaders would meet during Addis Ababa’s summit. Barnaba said the meeting aims to break the deadlock on the outstanding issues in the current talks.
Bashir and Kiir were supposed to meet in South Sudan’s capital Juba in March but Khartoum cancelled the trip after South Sudanese forces occupied the disputed oil region of Heglig, which led to the outbreak of the most serious fighting between the two nations since South Sudan split from Sudan to form an independent state in July last year.