September 17, 2013 (Agok, ABYEI) - South Sudan has received a proposal from Thabo Mbeki’s African Union High Level panel to help its northern neighbor overcome its huge debts, the country’s foreign minister said.
- South Sudanese Information Minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin 2 April 2 2012 (Getty)
Barnaba Marial Benjamin said he handed over the proposal to president Salva Kiir who is still scrutinising it.
The joint engagement on debt relief, Marial stressed, was part of the cooperation agreement between the two countries signed a year ago, which demands both sides to lobby for Sudan’s debt cancellation.
The minister also confirmed holding a meeting with the Sudanese ambassador to Juba, Mutrif Sadig over the issue, but did not hint on whether his country had accepted to help Sudan on its campaign for debt relief.
The minister, who exclusively spoke to Sudan Tribune on Tuesday, said he delivered the proposal to president Kiir on 12 September. He also reaffirmed the commitment of his government to fully implement the cooperation agreement, describing the recent bombing of Jau as the “work of spoilers of peace”.
"That was [an] unfortunate development which we condemned as the government but it will not affect the relations between the countries. We will continue to pursue dialogue to promote peaceful resolution of any difference. You know that our president Salva Kiir visited Khartoum recently in response to the invitation extended to him by his counterpart and it went well. They affirmed commitment to resolving all the outstanding issues", the minister said.
"This is what want some elements who are against peace and stability do not like. They are spoilers of peace", he added.
A South Sudanese official, who works in the ministry of foreign affairs and deal with Sudan affairs, said the proposal links any international engagement to help Sudan secure debt relief from international lending institutions and donor countries to showing progress and satisfactorily resolve disputes over a host of post-secession disputes which the two sides.
The diplomat, who preferred anonymity, told Sudan Tribune that the Juba government "is fully committed to establishing friendly, healthy and cooperative relations with the government of Sudan within the framework of cooperation agreement".
"We have done everything required from us, including withdrawal of our forces from the border area and recently accepted to be conducting joint border patrols. This demonstrates our commitment to implementing any agreement with our partner but the problem as always been the other side," he stressed.
He alleged that the Sudan Armed Forces "are still occupying areas which the two sides should have no presence of the armed forces because this is what causes conflict.”
The official said Khartoum was depicting Juba as “unaware”, claiming it was using tactics to get what it wants by using the international community, particularly the African Union to mediate over post secession issues.
He further disclosed that the Sudanese government had repeatedly and directly approached his ministry, through its ambassador to the country, seeking the launching of what he called a “joint outreach diplomatic engagement”.
The initiative, the official said, specifically aims at lifting of sanctions imposed on Sudan by the government of the United States and cancellation of the debts Khartoum owed some lending institutions and donor countries.
Khartoum and Juba are to sort out the issue of dividing the portion of pre-partition external debt each side will carry after South Sudan’s split in July 2011.
"Mbeki last week brought a proposal asking the government, specially our president to support the joint diplomatic engagement to support Sudan get cancellation of about $45.6 billion debt, while at the same refusing some of the proposals which the same Mbeki draws up to help the two sides resolve all the remaining outstanding issues which were not implemented in the comprehensive peace and differences," the ministry official revealed.
In June this year, the Sudanese government announced that the size of its foreign debt rose to a record $42 billion by the end of 2012 and blamed it on accumulation of interest arrears.