By Tesfa-Alem Tekle
November 17, 2012 (ADDIS ABABA) - Presidential assistant to Sudan’s Omer Hassan Al-Bashir, Nafie Ali Nafie held talks with Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn over Abyei issue on Saturday.
- FILE - Sudan’s presidential assistant Nafie Ali Nafie
President Bashir and his South Sudanese counterpart Salva Kiir signed a Cooperation Agreement last September. However, the two sides were unable to settle their differences over a referendum to be held in Abyei or to make progress on the territorial disputes along the new 1,800km international border.
According to Ethiopia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Desalegn and Nafie discussed the future of Abyei, the main region of contention, where Ethiopian peacekeepers have been deployed for over a year in a UN force with a chapter seven mandate from the UN Security Council.
Tensions have risen in the area since Bashir announced his rejection of a decision by the African Union Peace and Security Council to back a proposal by the mediation for a referendum to be held in October 2013 without the Misseriya, should they fail to strike a deal within six weeks.
Before arriving in Ethiopia, the presidential assistant toured different African countries to explain the position of his government over the issue.
Sudan which accuses the mediation of backing the South Sudanese position says favourable to the partition of the disputed region between the two countries.
- Ethiopian Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Hailemariam Desalegn attends the Joint Political Committee meeting between Sudan and Ethiopia in Khartoum December 24, 2011 (Reuters)
Desalegn and Nafie further discussed the conflict in Blue Nile State, which has forced 38,000 people to flee into Ethiopia. The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) says that 68,901 people have also been displaced in Ethiopia.
The Ethiopian premier reaffirmed his country’s intention to continue to help mediate discussions with the Presidents of Sudan and South Sudan to resolve the differences between the two countries and find a durable solution.
Ethiopia, which shares border with the two countries, is seen as honest broker by both Sudan and South Sudan and the east African nation, and is the seat of the African Union, which has hosted a number of rounds of talks between the two Sudans.