US officials attempt to ease relations between Sudan, S Sudan

Ahram Online, Monday 20 Feb 2012

Visiting US diplomats hold a series of meetings with Sudan's government to end conflict between Khartoum and Juba, days ahead of discussions over possible American economic aid

US envoys began mediation efforts to ease tension between Sudan and South Sudan after the neighbouring states failed to resolve the issue of disengagement. Special Envoy to Sudan Ambassador Princeton Lyman and Senior Advisor on Darfur Ambassador Dane Smith held a series of meetings with Sudanese officials to discuss ways in which to improve relations between Khartoum and Juba.

Sudanese Foreign Ministry spokesman Al-Obaid Marwah told reporters on Sunday that the US diplomats said during a meeting with Foreign Minister Ali Karti that "weak confidence" between Khartoum and Juba was a key reason hindering an agreement.

Sudan and South Sudan failed last week to hammer out a deal that would solve outstanding issues, such as oil rights. African Union-sponsored negotiations between the two sides are set to resume later this month.

Al-Hayat newspaper reported that the American diplomats had tried to secure permission for international humanitarian non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to enter the Blue Nile and South Kordofan regions. However, the Sudanese Foreign Minister Ali Karti rejected the American request, arguing that local NGOs are already doing the job.

During his visit Lyman confirmed that Washington will continue to support Sudan and will honour its promise to write off Sudan's $2.4 billion debts.

Sudanese media also reported that a separate American delegation arrived in Khartoum on Monday to discuss US economic support to Sudan as a follow up to Lyman's visit.

A senior American official is due to meet the Sudanese Finance Minister Ali Mahmoud in order to discuss granting Sudan $250 million in economic aid for 2013.

However, Al-Hayat newspaper said that the Sudanese officials are expected to reject the funds, as provisos attached to the loan include allowing international humanitarian agencies to operate in the Kordofan region and ending all hostile action taken against South Sudan.

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