March 8, 2013 (ADDIS ABABA/JUBA) – Sudan and South Sudan have agreed on immediate and unconditional withdrawal of forces to their side within two weeks, to allow for establishment of a safe demilitarized border zone, the African Union High Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP) said Friday.
- President Omar al-Bashir (R) walks out with Thabo Mbeki (left) and President Salva Kiir Mayardit after a meeting in 2011 [©Reuters]
The two countries, at the end of an extraordinary Joint Political and Security Mechanism (JPSM) meeting, held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia also committed themselves to the deployment of the Joint Border Verification and Monitoring Mechanism (JBVMM) and the activation of all security related mechanisms from 10 March.
Both Sudan and South Sudan, in September last year, signed a Cooperation Agreement, which covered oil and citizenship rights as well as security issues, among others. Since then, implementation of the deal have stalled over Khartoum’s insistence that Juba sever all ties with Sudanese rebel groups - an allegation that is denied by South Sudan.
However, South Sudan, the AUHIP said in a communiqué, agreed to provide land at Gok Machar for Initial Operational Capability (IOC) the within 16 days while Sudan chose Kadugli, the South Kordofan state capital as the JBVMM and sector headquarters.
“The JBVMM will operate immediately from Kadugli, within its capabilities. In Gok Machar, IOC will be operational within 30 days of provision of land,” partly reads the communiqué.
The inclusion of ’Mile 14’ in the proposed border buffer zone caused consternation in South Sudan’s Northern Bahr el Ghazal, despite the African Union and United Nations making clear that the location of the buffer zone would have no bearing on any final border settlement.
Sudan had initially proposed for the extension of the demilitarised area on the common border to include Blue Nile and South Kordofan, a proposal Juba declined to accept. The Sudanese army later claimed Juba refuses to pull out its troops from the disputed area of Mile 14.
Ban Ki-moon applauds
Ban Ki-Moon, United Nations Secretary-General has welcomed the outcome of the agreement reached by the two countries, but warned that any conditions placed will be a setback to its implementation.
“With this agreement, there should be no further conditions in the way of immediate implementation of the other signed 27 September agreements, including the agreement on oil,” Ki-Moon said in a statement.
The UN chief also reiterated the United Nations readiness to support the operations of the JBVMM as well as assist the parties in the implementation of these agreements reached.
The two sides almost returned to full scale conflict in April last year when the South Sudan army (SPLA) briefly occupied another disputed territory, Heglig/Panthou, an oil-rich area which South Sudan says should lie in Unity state rather than South Kordofan.
Click here to read the full text of implementation modalities