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US says Sudans making progress in cooperation agreement

April 16, 2013 (KHARTOUM) - The United States embassy in Khartoum has welcomed the recent progress made in the implementation of cooperation agreements signed last September between the two Sudans, notably the resumption of oil production in South Sudan on April 6.

“These agreements hold the promise of establishing mutually beneficial arrangements that promote the best interests of both peoples”, the embassy said in a statement issued on Monday.

The comments come following a meeting in Juba on Friday between Sudanese president Omer Al-Bashir and his south Sudanese counterpart Salva Kiir.

The agreement, signed in March in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, under the supervision of the African Union, sets a timetable and the mechanisms to enact a cooperation deal signed by the two Sudans on 27 September, but which both failed to implement following ongoing disputes over border and security issues.

In addition to oil production, the cooperation agreement addresses other outstanding issues, including security arrangements, the demarcation of borders, the status of people living across borders, trade, economics and pensions.

“Achieving immediate, practical gains for both peoples by implementing the border trade and ‘four freedoms’ provisions of the agreements will, we hope, sustain the positive spirit of the Juba summit”, the statement said.

The talks marked Bashir’s first visit to South Sudan’s capital since the country gained independence in July 2011.

Although the two leaders are said to have discussed a range of unresolved post-secession issues, they significantly failed to strike a deal on the issue of the disputed oil-producing region of Abyei, where they are yet to establish temporary institutions and set up a referendum commission.

However, at a joint news conference shortly after the talks ended, both leaders said they had agreed to form a joint high level committee to work out modalities seeking to resolve the remaining outstanding issues between them.

The US embassy said the talks were an encouraging step in improving relations between the two ex foes.

“We are encouraged that the two presidents are working closely together to fully implement their agreements, as witnessed by their recent summit in Juba, and to resolve outstanding issues such as Abyei, including its administration and final status,” the embassy said in its statement.

According to South Sudan’s information minister, Barnaba Marial, while both leaders agreed to set up a joint administration in Abyei, there remains disagreement over how the local legislative council should be composed.

Kiir wants a previous arrangement, in which South Sudan held 60% representation and Sudan 40%, to stand, however, Bashir is pushing for a 50-50 split.

Khartoum says it had previously accepted the 40% share to encourage Southerners to vote for unity, but now wants to re-establish its 50% as provided in the 2005 peace agreement.

Marial confirmed that Bashir had invited Kiir to Khartoum for further talks on matters that remain unresolved.

South Sudan has confirmed that its first oil shipment, destined for international markets, reached Sudanese territory last Saturday, a day after Bashir’s visit to Juba.

The young nation halted its oil production early last January following a dispute with neighbouring Sudan over transit fees, with relations between the two countries worsening after the South accused Khartoum of confiscating its oil entitlements, which it claims were sold illegally to international markets.

The shutdown sparked an economic crisis in both countries, which are heavily dependent on oil revenues.

South Sudan took with it nearly three quarters of the oil wealth after seceding from its northern neighbour. However, the infrastructure needed to transport its oil to international markets remains in Sudan.

(ST)