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Khartoum proposes Bashir-Kiir summit as talks falter

March 11, 2012 (KHARTOUM) – Sudan has reportedly proposed a summit between its President, Omer Al-Bashir, and his South Sudanese counterpart, Salva Kiir Mayardit, in the hope it will break the stalemate over post-secession issues.

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Sudanese president Omer al-Bashir (R), walks with South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir (L), after his arrival in Khartoum, Oct 8, 2011. (AP)

According to press reports from the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, where the two sides have been negotiating for months under African Union mediation, the proposed summit would be held in South Sudan’s capital Juba.

The proposal comes as the current round of negotiations, which started on 6 March, typically failed to produce an agreement over the issues of dispute, including border demarcation, citizenship and oil.

Sources told Sudan Tribune that the ongoing talks, which were hoped to resolve disputes over borders and citizenship ahead of the thorny issue of oil, yielded no agreement on the major points of contention.

However, the two sides made some headways and the talks are expected to witness the signing of framework agreements on the issues of citizenship and border demarcations.

Meanwhile, the sources said, the issues of border areas controlled by Sudan and claimed by South Sudan, such as Abyei, would be referred to the proposed presidential summit.

Khartoum and Juba also agreed to revive the non-aggression memorandum they signed in February this year. The deal nearly unravelled this month after Khartoum accused Juba of participating in an attack by Sudanese rebels on the disputed town of Jau.

The same sources pointed out that Khartoum’s negotiators had agreed to sign the proposal of AU mediators on oil after slight changes were introduced to it. However, they added that Juba’s negotiators had suggested the inclusion of three issues which, according to the sources, are likely to complicate matters.

However, the sources appeared sure that a deal on oil is currently a remote possibility as both sides remained firmly committed to their far apart positions on transit fees.

The sources also said that South Sudan’s chief negotiator, Pagan Amum, demanded that international guarantees exists at every stage of implementation of any potential deal with Khartoum on oil.

But Khartoum’s negotiators, the sources added, insisted that the role of the international community be confined to providing assistance and containing the negative effects of secession.

Meanwhile, local press reports in Sudan said that Khartoum proposed to hold a summit between Al-Bashir and Kiir in Juba as soon as possible in order to resolve the issues which negotiators failed to thrash out.

Sudan Tribune’s sources said they expect the current round to be adjourned so the negotiating teams can return to their bases to hold consultation and arrange for the presidential summit.

It remains to be seen whether the proposed meeting, if it materialises, will have better luck than the one held between the two leaders on 27 January this year on the margins of an Addis-Ababa based summit of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD).

The previous meeting, backed by regional leaders, failed to create a breakthrough in the oil dispute which heated up after Khartoum began confiscating southern oil as it passed through Sudan’s pipelines and South Sudan decided to shut off production in response.

South Sudan took with it 75 percent of Sudan’s daily oil output of 500,000 barrels when it seceded in July last year under a deal that ended more than two decades of north-south civil war in the former united Sudan.

But the two countries failed to agree on a charge to transport the oil of landlocked South Sudan via Sudan’s pipelines, fuelling increased tension and talk of going back to war.