Sudan, South Sudan agree to start drawing border: Sudan

Reuters News
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Posted: Feb 16, 2012 1:44 PM
Sudan, South Sudan agree to start drawing border: Sudan

KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Sudan and South Sudan want to have the bulk of their loosely-defined and volatile border demarcated as soon as within three months, a Sudanese official said on Thursday, in a possible bid to ease tensions between the two former civil war foes.

The demarcation, however, would not include five areas that are still disputed by the two sides, said Yahya al-Hussein, a senior government official and member of Sudan's negotiating team.

South Sudan broke off from its northern neighbor in July under a 2005 peace deal that ended decades of conflict, but lingering issues such as where to draw the border and how to untangle the oil industry have continued to stoke tensions between the two sides.

Tribal disputes, overlapping territorial claims, rebel fighting and the presence of economically vital oil fields have beguiled attempts to define the exact boundary.

"The two parties have agreed to begin work on drawing the border immediately, and finish work within three months if operating conditions allow for it," Hussein told reporters in Khartoum.

The two sides have agreed on about 90 percent of the border since 2009, Hussein added.

They have been meeting this week in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa to discuss the border and other sensitive issues such as oil.

Tensions along the boundary have made it harder for the two sides to reach a deal around how much landlocked South Sudan should pay to send its oil - vital to both economies - through northern pipelines running to an export terminal in Sudan.

The new nation shut down its roughly 350,000 barrels per day of production last month in protest after Khartoum began confiscating some oil to make up for what it called unpaid fees. Officials on both sides have suggested war could break out over the row.

Hussein downplayed the chance of armed conflict, however, saying it would not benefit Sudan.

"We have no desire to enter into a war with South Sudan," he said. "We do not have an interest in security tensions in South Sudan, which affect us negatively in the form of displacement and other issues."

Some 2 million people died in the civil conflict between north and south, waged for all but a few years between 1955 and 2005 over ideology, ethnicity, religion and oil.

(Reporting by Khalid Abdelaziz; Writing by Alexander Dziadosz; Editing by Alessandra Rizzo)