With talks, another chance at peace for Sudan and South Sudan
Just a day after South Sudan accused Sudan of attacks inside its territory, the countries send negotiators to Addis Ababa to try to resolve disputes over border, security, and oil revenues.
Starting today, Sudan and South Sudan meet in Addis Ababa for another round of African Union-led talks. The talks come just one day after South Sudan accused Sudan of attacks inside its territory and two days after Sudan filed a complaint against its new neighbor at the UN Security Council (UNSC).Skip to next paragraph
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Commenting on the alleged attack on Northern Bahr Al-Ghazal state from the airport before boarding the plane to Ethiopia, South Sudan's lead negotiator, Pagan Amum, told Associated Press that "these are not signs of peace."
Earlier this week, Sudan filed a UNSC complaint accusing Southern forces of entering its borders.
The talks, which are supervised by the UN Security Council, will assess the commitment of the two partners to the UNSC resolution 2046 and the roadmap presented by Thabo Mbeki, the lead mediator and chief of the AU's High Implementation Panel.
The UN’s Resolution 2046 calls on the two countries to end hostilities and to urgently reach a deal through negotiations or else to face sanctions imposed by the UNSC and its member states. The roadmap devised by former South African President Mbeki focuses on security and border issues between the two countries.
This week’s talks will not bring immediate peace, says Hafiz Ismail, a Khartoum-based political analyst, but they do provide an opportunity for both sides to address issues that have been unresolved since the end of the Sudanese civil war in 2005. "This procedural round is to discuss the issues of cessation of hostilities, establishing a buffer-zone and monitoring arrangements," Mr. Ismail says.
Oil transit fees, citizenship and border demarcation – including the disputed border city of Abyei – will be left to the second round where the two countries should present proposals to address other unresolved issues.
Recent fighting between Sudan and South Sudan – which won its independence in July 2011 after a January referendum vote for secession – has brought the two countries to the very brink of all out war, as Southern Sudanese troops captured the northern oilfields at Heglig, and as Sudanese jet planes have bombed civilian villages and Southern military positions alike. Neither country can afford a war, politically or financially. South Sudan has turned off the one possible source of government revenues, by shutting off its oil production because of disputes with the north over the north’s fees for pumping that oil out to global markets through its pipelines.
The Sudanese regime in Khartoum, meanwhile, has a massive military and government apparatus, but has lost more than 75 percent of the oil revenues it once enjoyed when South Sudan was still part of its country. For both countries, foreign cash reserves are getting low, and government employees are going unpaid. And for the region, any possibility of all out war between the two Sudans has the potential to become a regional conflict, as friends of Sudan and South Sudan show signs of sending in their own troops to join the conflict.