March 20, 2013 (ADDIS ABABA) - The African Union (AU) has welcomed the successful convening of a recent extraordinary meeting of the Joint Political Security Mechanism (JPSM) to report on the implementation of security agreements between Sudan and South Sudan.
The meeting, facilitated by the AU High-Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP), was held in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa from 16 to 19 March, and was co-chaired by South Sudan’s minister of defence, General John Kong Nyuon, and his Sudanese counterpart 1st Lt General Abdel Raheem Mohammed Hussein.
During the meeting, General Yohannes Tesfamariam, commander of the United Nations Interim Security Force in Abyei (UNISFA), provided a progress report on security agreements signed between the two countries on 12 March aimed at ending long-running hostilities and restarting oil production.
A statement issued by the AU and extended to Sudan Tribune said both parties had met their obligations with regard to the withdrawal to their side of the border, with national monitors from the two countries in the process of being airlifted to the Joint Border Verification Monitoring Mechanism (JBVMM) headquarters in Kadugli.
Both parties have also given assurances that the monitors will be able to operate in their respective territories without hindrance, the statement continued.
Tesfamariam said further progress is expected to be made in the coming days.
The agreement, signed in Addis Ababa, under the supervision of the AU, sets a clear timetable and framework to enact a cooperation agreement signed by both countries last September, which had stalled amid ongoing disagreements over border and security arrangements.
In addition to the resumption of oil production, other matters addressed in the cooperation are due to be carried out in the coming weeks, including security arrangements, the demarcation of borders, the status of people living across borders, trade, economics and pensions.
There has yet to be a final agreement on the disputed oil-rich Abyei region, but a timeline to establish an administration, council and security mechanism in the district were set up.
Meanwhile, the chairperson of the African Union Commission (AUC), Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, has commended both countries for their “exceptional” efforts to meet the very tight timelines for operationalisation of the Safe Demilitarized Border Zone (SDBZ), praising UNISFA for its continued work in support of Sudan and South Sudan, which she says has been instrumental in ensuring the success of the process to date.
Zuma also called on the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to extend its full support to the process, urging its members to authorise the additional 1,126 personnel, including support elements, requested by UNISFA to facilitate protection for the monitors of the JBVMM.
In the statement, Zuma welcomed the “positive and cooperative spirit” demonstrated by both parties, saying she is pleased to note the tangible progress made in the implementation of the agreements to operationalize the SDBZ.
“The chairperson believes that these actions constitute important steps in building the necessary confidence between them [Sudan and South Sudan], leading towards the full normalisation of their relationship, based on their commitment to build two viable states,” the statement said.
“The chairperson is confident that the same spirit and commitment will continue to be exerted by the parties in their ongoing efforts to meet their obligations,” it added.
Landlocked South Sudan, which seceded from the north in July 2011, took with it almost 75 percent of the once united county’s oil reserves, but has no other way to export it except through Sudanese pipelines running to the Red Sea.
In January last year, the South shut down production of its 350,000 barrel-per-day oil reserves following a disagreement over transit fees to pump its oil through Sudanese pipelines for export.
The suspension devastated the economies of both countries which depend heavily on oil as the main source of state income for food imports.
Under the terms of the agreement, the governments of the two countries have instructed oil companies to re-establish production, processing and transportation within 14 days. However, it remains to be seen how long it will take oil companies to prepare the pipelines for the flow of oil, a process which could take several months.