Sudan South Sudan agree to implement oil deal and to set up buffer zone

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The presidents of Sudan and South Sudan agreed on Saturday to set up a demilitarized zone along their disputed border and allow oil exports to flow from South Sudan’s oil fields north through Sudan’s pipelines.

Sudan President Omar al-Bashir and South Sudan President Salva Kiir met on Friday and Saturday in Ethiopia’s capital to revive a stalled oil exportation deal that has lagged for months over disputes on the setup of security arrangements across their borders.

AU mediator Thabo Mbeki said late Saturday that the two presidents agreed for the “speedy, unconditional and coordinated” implementation of the agreements, according to the Associated Press.

After weeks of deadly clashes early last year the two came close to all-out war but agreed a ceasefire in April. However, South Sudan says Sudan has bombed its side of the border several times since then and neither has withdrawn its army since the deal was struck in September.

They also accuse each other of supporting rebels on each other’s side of the border, accusations denied by both, and part of Sudanese side is controlled by Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-North) rebels.

The AU called this week’s summit, two days of talks in Ethiopia, to defuse tensions after months of often unproductive talks between two countries which remain deeply mistrustful of each other, a legacy of one of Africa’s longest civil wars.

“They’ve ... agreed that actions should be taken as soon as possible to implement all the existing agreements unconditionally,” AU mediator Thabo Mbeki said after the summit which Bashir and Kiir left without making statements.

“The presidents have also agreed that ... the necessary decisions are taken to create the safe demilitarized border zone,” Mbeki told reporters. The AU would present a time frame next week, he said.

The AU, backed by Western powers, had threatened both with sanctions should they miss a September deadline to resolve the dispute and has since then granted more time to negotiate.

Sudan has rejected calls by Western powers and the AU to start peace talks with the SPLM-North, which complains of marginalization and wants to topple Bashir.

Mbeki said Kiir had told the summit that the South had cut any ties with SPLM-North but it was not clear whether this would be sufficient assurance for Sudan. Security officials from both sides will start more talks in Ethiopia on Jan. 13.
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