August 22, 2013 (JUBA) - The South Sudanese government has rescheduled sending an advance delegation to the Sudanese capital Khartoum for a consultative meeting tasked to decide the date and agenda of a summit between the two leaders, according to a senior diplomat on Thursday.
- South Sudan’s minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin, on 13 September 2011 (ST)
Juba said the plan remains in the pipeline, attributing the delay to the absence of the foreign affairs minister in the country and that no other senior official has been designated to take his place.
“The plan has not changed; it [is] just that the minister of foreign affairs had travelled to Zimbabwe. He is expected to return this evening or tomorrow”, ministry spokesman Mawien Makol told Sudan Tribune on Thursday.
Makol did not provide further details of when the trip would take place, saying it may occur “next week if no other important issues take over the priority of the ministerial schedules”.
“There is no fixed date that I know [of], but I think it may be between 27 and 28 [August]”, he said
Makol said the foreign minister’s visit to Zimbabwe is important as Harare enjoys special relations with the new nation.
As a member of the African Union Peace and Security Council (AUPSC), Zimbabwe is also in a position to offer its support on the Abyei issue.
“The minister is delivering a special message from the president. He will meet his Zimbabwean counterpart and other senior members of the government. Zimbabwe is a very important country to us. It is one of the countries who stood with our people during the dark days”, he said.
The senior diplomat says he expects Harare to play a vital role in reaching out to other countries in the southern African region to persuade the Sudanese government at accept a proposal by African Union mediators to hold a referendum in October on the final status of the contested oil-producing region of Abyei.
The Sudanese government this week reiterated its rejection of the proposed referendum, stressing that priority should be given to establishing local institutions and providing public services in the region.
A referendum initially scheduled for January 2011 to decide the fate of the Abyei border area failed to take place over disagreements between Khartoum and Juba about who is eligible to participate in the vote.
The AU proposal, which is in line with the South Sudanese position, provides to hold the referendum without the participation of the Misseriya nomads, which enter the region periodically to graze their cattle.
The dominant Dinka Ngok tribe who reside permanently in the area are expected to vote overwhelmingly to remain part of South Sudan.