South Sudan leader to meet Sudan's Bashir to wrap up talks

Reuters News
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Posted: Sep 21, 2012 11:56 AM
South Sudan leader to meet Sudan's Bashir to wrap up talks

JUBA (Reuters) - South Sudanese President Salva Kiir has agreed to meet Sudanese counterpart Omar Hassan al-Bashir in Ethiopia this weekend to sort out all outstanding conflicts by a U.N. Security Council deadline, the government said on Friday.

Khartoum had said on Thursday it still hoped to reach a broad accord with South Sudan at a president's summit in Addis Ababa to end all hostilities despite new fighting between the army and rebels in Sudan's borderlands.

Western and African Union officials have been trying to nail down a border security deal between the northeast African rivals to allow a resumption of oil exports from the South through Sudan, throwing both countries a badly needed economic lifeline.

Diplomats hoped to conclude negotiations with a summit between Bashir and Kiir on Sunday in Ethiopia, where both sides have been negotiating for more than two weeks.

Kiir "will be going to Addis Ababa" to meet Bashir, South Sudanese Information Minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin confirmed to reporters in Juba after a cabinet meeting.

He was confident that all issues would be solved before a U.N. Security Council deadline expired at the weekend. "These are issues that can be resolved amicably," Benjamin said, without elaborating.

Bashir on Tuesday accepted an invitation to Addis Ababa from the Ethiopian government.

While there has been some progress, there is still no deal on setting up a demilitarized buffer zone along the unmarked border, much of which is disputed.

Last month, Sudan and South Sudan reached an interim deal to revive southern oil exports that must transit the north to reach Red Sea ports. But Khartoum insists on a border security accord first, the latest focus of both parties.

Unless the two hatch a comprehensive accord by a September 22 deadline, they risk incurring Security Council sanctions.

The African neighbors came close to war in April in the worst outbreak of violence since the mainly Christian and animist South Sudan seceded from mainly Muslim Sudan in July 2011 under a peace pact that ended decades of civil war.

(Reporting by Mading Ngor; Writing Ulf Laessing)