Bashir says Sudan, South need peace

AFP , Sunday 20 May 2012

African Union puts pressure on oil-producing Sudan and South Sudan as it seeks to bring back the two neighbouring states to the negotiating table

Sudan and South Sudan need peace and Khartoum is committed to all security agreements it has signed, African Union mediator Thabo Mbeki on Saturday quoted the Sudanese leader as saying after talks.
"President Bashir confirmed that he believes the two nations... are in need of peace," Mbeki said in a statement following a meeting with Omar al-Bashir.

The meeting capped two days of talks with Sudanese officials as Mbeki tries to push Sudan and South Sudan back to negotiations, which were suspended after border fighting last month.
 He was expected to continue his diplomacy in the South Sudanese capital Juba on Sunday.

Sudan and South Sudan did not comply with a United Nations Security Council demand that they resume the talks by last Wednesday, but Mbeki and other diplomats were nonetheless trying to get negotiations restarted. The South has said it is ready to talk and accused Khartoum of stalling.

The May 2 Security Council resolution made a number of other demands in an effort to avert a "serious threat to international peace and security" caused by the situation along their disputed border. It called on both sides to establish a "Safe Demilitarised Border Zone" of 10 kilometres (6.2 miles) and jointly begin monitoring the frontier, in line with agreements made about a year ago.

"President Bashir confirmed that Sudan is committed to all security agreements that have been agreed to," Mbeki said. "This means Sudan is committed to have a buffer zone on the border between the two states, 10 kilometres on each side, and also Sudan is committed to have a joint mechanism for monitoring the border and the buffer zone."

Although South Sudan said it had pulled back its forces according to the UN's call, Khartoum's foreign ministry said the border must be agreed to before a withdrawal can occur. The UN resolution, however, says its demand "in no way prejudices" negotiations over disputed areas, and border demarcation.

The resolution gave Sudan and South Sudan two days to cease hostilities and two weeks to unconditionally resume negotiations. It threatened sanctions if its demands are ignored. "Now we are doing the preparations for the negotiations to solve the pending issues," Mbeki said.

Following months of AU-led talks, Sudan withdrew from the process after South Sudanese troops seized the north's main oil region of Heglig on April 10. A subsequent 10-day occupation coincided with Sudanese air raids on South Sudanese territory, leading to fears of wider war.

The talks aim to settle critical issues left unresolved after the South's separation in July last year following a 1983-2005 civil war.

These include oil payments, the status of each country's citizens resident in the other, the status of the contested Abyei region, and resolution of disputed and "claimed" border areas as well as demarcation of the frontier.

Mbeki arrived in Khartoum Thursday night as the UN Security Council made a new demand that Sudan "immediately" withdraw all troops from Abyei, which it occupied one year ago.

Withdrawal from Abyei was one of the demands under the May 2 Security Council resolution, but Sudan said it will leave the area only after a joint administration for the territory has been set up.

South Sudan, which withdrew its forces from Abyei as demanded, says Khartoum is blocking the creation of that administration. Khartoum accuses South Sudan of backing a major insurgency in South Kordofan state, as well as in Blue Nile, but Juba denies the charge and accuses Khartoum of supporting insurgents south of the border.

The UN ordered both sides to stop the practice. "President Bashir confirmed that the two countries have to stop supporting the rebels on each side," Mbeki said.

Ibrahim Gandour, foreign affairs chief of Sudan's ruling National Congress Party, confirmed that Sudan wants to have the buffer zone but he also repeated a demand that Southern troops allegedly on Sudanese soil must withdraw. "We confirm that solving the security issues is the top priority," he said at the briefing with Mbeki.

Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi is due in Sudan on Sunday for talks with Bashir focused on relations with South Sudan, deputy Arab League chief Ahmed Ben Hilli said in Cairo.

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