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S. Sudan to withdraw its troops from border areas: Kiir

December 31, 2012 (JUBA) - The Republic of South Sudan will withdraw its troops from border areas to allow for the operation of the proposed demilitarized border zone with Sudan, President Salva Kiir said Monday.

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President Salva Kiir (Reuters)

"We are temporarily withdrawing our forces from the immediate border areas. This will allow the demilitarized border zone to be operational. We hope that these arrangements will make sure that peace and stability is maintained along our common border", said Kiir in his new year’s message.

He, however, stressed South Sudan has not given any of its land to Sudan, adding that its leaders stood firm throughout the year to protect the fundamental interests of its nationals.

The two Sudans, on 27 September, reached an agreement on several key issues, including the demilitarization of common border, oil, security, among other issues. The African Union High Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP) facilitated the deal, reached in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.

Both countries, under the deal reached, agreed to withdraw their troops 10 kilometers from either side of the border, to be monitored by a joint force and the United Nations peacekeeping forces (UNISFA) working in Abyei .

However, the security arrangements of the deal have not yet been implemented as Khartoum demands that South Sudan disarms rebels fighting the government in South Kordofan and Blue Nile as precondition for the full implementation of the security arrangements with South Sudan.

Sudan also demanded to extend the buffer zone to include Blue Nile and South Kordofan border in a way to prevent the Sudanese rebels operating in the two states from crossing to South Sudan or receiving materials.

However, President Kiir in response described Sudan’s demands as practically “impossible and will not happen”. Former US envoy, Princeton Lyman, the for both countries recently said he was "troubled" by Khartoum’s recent requests and demands.

The two countries, however, agreed earlier this month in Addis Ababa to implement what they agreed and to keep talks on the rebel issue. The political and security committee will meet in Addis during the upcoming days.

Also the two presidents Bashir and Kiir are scheduled to meet in the Ethiopian capital.

In his speech, President Kiir assured the population of South Sudan army’s (SPLA) commitment to protect the nation and its territory from external aggression, including the Sudanese army and its allied militias.

The young nation, on Sunday, accused the government of neigbouring Sudan of “amassing troops” at the border ahead of a planned meeting between the two countries’ Presidents aimed at resolving a number of outstanding issues pertaining to the south’s independence in July last year.

"There are now 3,000 troops fully equipped moving towards disputed areas. They are moving with heavy weapons and they started their activities with ground on areas which deeply inside our territory. They have started this with the attack on Northern Bahr el Ghazal State and a raid of farmers in Renk County in Upper Nile State", South Sudan’s information minister, Barnaba Marial said.

The troop build-up, he claimed, was "to preempt [the] presidential summit" and prevent the planned meeting between President Kiir and his Sudanese counterpart, Omer Hassan Al-Bashir.

Both Presidents have not met since September when they signed a Cooperation Agreement on numerous issues.

(ST)