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Is a new phase in relations looming for Sudan and S. Sudan?

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August 23, 2016 (KHARTOUM/JUBA) - Sudan and South Sudan appear to be on the verge of bringing their relations to a new level following the current visit of First-Vice President Taban Deng Gai to Khartoum which Juba hopes would normalize ties between the two nations particularly as it faces mounting international pressures.

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South Sudan President Salva Kiir (R) and his Sudanese counterpart Omar al-Bashir look on during a photo opportunity at the state house in capital Juba January 6, 2014 (Reuters/James Akena)

On the one side, Gai and his senior economic and military delegation who arrived in the Sudanese capital on Sunday, have discussed outstanding issues between the two countries including security, border and oil issues.

However, South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir Mayardit seems to have sought to gain support of the Sudanese government in the face of the heavy international pressure that he encountered following the escape of his former First Vice-President Riek Machar which exacerbated the humanitarian and security situation in the newborn state.

Kiir had written a special letter to his Sudanese counterpart Omer al-Bashir expressing full commitment to implement all cooperation agreement signed between the two countries in 2012 before asking Khartoum to deal the same way with his government.

He also underscored his personal commitment to work to achieve a homegrown solution to stopping the war that brought his country to the brink of economic collapse.

“Let me be clear my brother, Omer al-Bashir and members of your government that we are not opposed to the regional support. We need support of the region, particularly countries like Sudan but this support should be supplementary. It should be a supplementary to our own so it is not rejected by the people. The region also needs to know that imported solutions aren’t the answer. We have many examples where external intervention had been short lived in other countries. Only a domestic solution realised from understanding people’s needs and aspirations that can be permanent”, Kiir explained in the special letter addressed to al-Bashir, copy of which Sudan Tribune obtained.

The South Sudanese government has declined to respond to a UN Security Council Resolution 2304 that authorized sending extra 4,000 troops to boost UN peacekeepers in country with a mandate to fight rival forces considering the move a violation to its sovereignty.

Washington is standing behind the resolution to send extra troops to South Sudan, saying it would participate to the protection of civilians in the country.

“It is absolutely indisputable that we need to push for the deployment of the regional force which has been approved by the UN Security Council” said US Secretary of State John Kerry during his meeting with five Foreign Ministers from the regional bloc IGAD on Monday in Nairobi.

“With respect to the protection force, let me make it clear: The protection force is limited by definition, not a response to the overall crisis within the country as a whole, because clearly, there are many people with weapons in many parts of the country, and a protection force of 4,000 people will not have the capacity to cover all those bases,” the top U.S. diplomat said.

“But the hope is that with a transitional government that is now committed to the full implementation of the peace agreement and that has already begun to implement that peace agreement, that a force with a presence in Juba itself, which is where most of the violence took place during the last round, will be able to guarantee access for everybody, and that includes people trying to prevent the violence,” he added.

Earlier this month Sudan declined a proposal by some international partners to conduct a solo mediation between the warring parties in South Sudan and also refused to send troops within the regional force, saying it doesn’t want to create any sensitivities with the conflicting parties.

“Sudan is sticking to its role within the IGAD only,” Foreign Ministry Spokesperson, Garib Allah Khidir, told reporters on August 2.

In his special letter, Kiir further projected the future of South Sudan to be brighter, saying the country was now moving forward after the appointment of Gai as his new first deputy in unity government in place of armed opposition leader, his main political rival for top office in the country, Riek Machar.

"We are moving towards a brighter future and the international community should support and not weaken us, the letter adds in part. It further added that South Sudan doesn’t need lessons on human rights from the international community. “Respecting human rights is enshrined in our culture, heritage and it is part of our values system. We are more respectful of human rights in terms of commitment and action,” it added.

It was apparent from Kiir’s letter that Juba seeks to win the trust of Khartoum by sending clear signals to assure the latter that it intends to open a new chapter in relations.

Also, these signals were sent by Gai when he directly addressed Khartoum’s major concern about the security file between the two countries and particularly with regard to Juba’s support for the Sudanese rebels saying his country is keen to resolve the outstanding security issues within three weeks.

On Monday, Gai also sent amessage from Khartoum to the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/North (SPLM-N) demanding the rebel group to resort to the peaceful settlement with the Sudanese government.

He stressed that his country wouldn’t serve as a launching pad for any Sudanese who wants to continue the war against Khartoum, adding “we hope that Sudan wouldn’t serve as a launching pad for Machar”.

South Sudan’s First Vice President Gai also on Tuesday denied that Darfur movements and SPLM-N are currently present in South Sudan’s territory, saying mutual accusations between the two countries “would continue until we agree on a verification mechanism”.

“We would go to Addis Ababa and all places where these [rebel] movements have presence and tell them that appropriate time has come to achieve peace and we would render the necessary support and advise them in a kind manner” he said.

“We advise them [SPLM-N] that wartime is over, and we say to them that your brothers in South Sudan shouldn’t suffer because of you, for even if the South didn’t support you Sudan is making use of that [pretext]” he added.

South Sudan seceded from Sudan on July 9th 2011 following a referendum on whether the semi-autonomous region should remain a part of the country or become independent. 99% of the southern Sudanese voters chose independence.

Relations between the two nations soured after South Sudan’s independence following a series of disputes over a number of issues.

(ST)

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Kind regards,

The Sudan Tribune editorial team.

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