By Tesfa-Alem Tekle
April 1, 2012 (ADDIS ABABA) - Sudan and South Sudanese government delegations met with Ethiopian Prime Minister, Meles Zenawi, on Sunday as part of ongoing negotiations between the two countries amid tension on their shared border.
The armies of Sudan and South Sudan clashed on 26 March clashed near the oil-rich border town of Heglig despite the “non aggression pact” they signed last February under the African Union (AU) mediation.
Both sides trade accusations over who first ignited the clash. Khartoum has brought fresh accusations against Juba of new incursion during the weekend. While South Sudan is accusing its northern neighbour of a continued aerial bombardment, including on its own oil fields.
The Sudanese delegation led by Interior Minister, Ibrahim Mohammed Hamid conferred with the Ethiopian Prime Minister on the current borders tensions, reaffirming Khartoum’s firm stance to peacefully resolve occurring misunderstanding with South Sudan including to the recent clashes.
Last weeks fighting is the worst since South Sudan’s independence in July last year, which has raised fears of a return to full-scale war. A recent report by activists says that this could cost up to $100bn. two the region and international actors, on top of the countless human lives that would be lost.
Two million people are estimated to have died during the last north-south civil war, which lasted from 1983 until an peace deal in 2005.
The AU brokered process on the outstanding issues between the two countries was delayed due to the absence of Sudan’s Defence Minister, Abdelrahim Mohamed Hussein, who is expected to arrive to the venue of talks on Monday.
South Sudanese negotiators said this was a deliberate move by Sudan aimed to delay the resumption of talks.
Sudanese Interior Minister, Hamid told Zenawi that their negotiating team was in Ethioia in search of a peaceful solutions. He said that he hoped Ethiopia, which is seen as neutral partner by Khartoum and Juba, would play an important role to settle the post-independence negotiations with South Sudan.
Zenawi, who is also chairman of the East African regional body IGAD, reaffirmed that his country will continue to provide support until existing differences are solved peacefully.
The two sides have also discussed on bilateral issues among others on economic, trade, investment and security affairs, according to the state-run Ethiopian News agency.
An agreement was reached to further boost joint cooperation on in infrastructure development, with special focus on roads, electricity and telecommunication.