By Tesfa-Alem Tekle
August 24, 2012 (ADDIS ABABA) – Following the death of Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi on Monday 20 August, South Sudan’s government has urged the country’s new leadership in Ethiopia to continue extending its support to the ongoing peace process between Sudan and South Sudan.
- Ethiopian Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Hailemariam Desalegn attends the Joint Political Committee meeting between Sudan and Ethiopia in Khartoum December 24, 2011 (Reuters)
South Sudanese Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Nhial Deng Nhial, on Thursday met Ethiopia’s acting Prime Minister, Hailemariam Desalegn, in Addis Ababa, delivering a message of condolence sent from President Salva Kiir.
The post-independence negotiations on the unresolved issues have taken place in Ethiopia and until his ill-health Meles was playing an active alongside the African Union High Implementation Panel led by former South African President Thabo Mbeki.
Earlier this month, talks were suspended due to the Islamic holy month of Ramadam but a deal on oil transportation fees was reached before the recess.
Officials in Sudan and South Sudan said that the death of Prime Minister Meles Zanawi, who also was chair chairperson of the Inter governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), will not delay next round of negotiations. The talks are expected to recommence on 30 August.
While conferring with Desalegn, Nhial said “the loss is greatly felt by the people and government of South Sudan”, according to a statement released by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Addis Ababa.
Nhial noted that the late Ethiopian Prime Minister had played an indispensable role in the peace process of Sudan and South Sudan and urged the new Ethiopian leadership to follow in his foot steps.
Zenawi played an important role to ease tensions between the two Sudanese nations in May 2011 when the north Sudanese army seized Abyei after an attack on its troops by uncontrolled elements. He also dedicated much of his time to bring the Sudanese government and the SPLM-North rebels to the negotiating table.
Ethiopia’s acting Prime Minister, Desalegn, on his side affirmed to Nhial that his country would continue to extend maximum support to the two Sudans peace process, following the the path set by his predecessor.
“Ethiopia is committed to continue implementing the policies and strategies set by the leadership of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi” he told the South Sudanese foreign minister.
Desalegn, described Prime Minister Meles Zenawi as a statesman and visionary leader.
Former Ethiopian Foreign Minister Desalegn, will be sworn in as the horn of Africa nation’s new Prime Minister, during parliament session to be held shortly after Zenawi’s funeral on 2 September. He has previously served as Zenawi’s deputy PM and will hold his new title until the next elections in 2015, Ethiopia’s ruling party has said.
Sudan and South Sudan are yet to settle a host of differences amounting from the partition of the two nations last year as part of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement.
Ethiopia which shares joint borders with the two countries considers its stability is largely linked to the political situation in the two countries.
Zenawi also led his rebellion from Sudan with the support of Omer Al-Bashir to overthrow in 1991 the communist regime of Mengistu Haile Mariam who supported the SPLM rebels.
However, the late Ethiopian leader very quickly sought to normalise his relations with the Sudanese rebel group and allowed it to have an office in Addis Ababa.
Zenawi, cut relations with Sudan late in 1996 but normalised it after his war with Eritrea in 1998.