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Major steps made in Sudan, S Sudan talks

19 December 2012, 17:18

Addis Ababa - The African Union on Tuesday announced major steps had been made in the ongoing peace talks between Sudan and South Sudan over contentious issues that have been dogging the two countries since the south seceded from the north in 2011.

"The two parties have agreed on all of the various steps that are required in order to implement the existing agreements," AU mediator Thabo Mbeki said in a statement at the end of yet another round of talks that ended with no concrete resolutions.

Among the issues agreed on was the creation of a demilitarised border zone with both countries agreeing on the exact location of previously contentious borders in a demilitarised zone.

"In the view of our panel, they have actually taken a major step forward with regard to addressing issues of security between the two countries," Mbeki said.

Progress on the new agreements will be discussed at another meeting planned for next month.

"We agreed on a new meeting on January 13. We will see what the results will be at that time and also discuss any other concerns that may arise," Sudan's Defence Minister Abdel-Rahim Mohamed Hussein said.

The AU's Peace and Security Council had given the two countries until 5 December to settle the final status of oil-producing Abyei, which Sudanese troops occupied for a year until May.

Urgent negotiations

But no talks took place by the deadline and the council called for "urgent negotiations" between the two countries.

In October, the AU security body decided that if Juba and Khartoum could not settle the Abyei issue themselves, they would be bound by an AU proposal for a referendum in October next year on whether the territory joins Sudan or South Sudan.

Sudanese troops withdrew from the territory in May after a year-long occupation that sent more than 100 000 people fleeing towards South Sudan.

The area is now controlled by Ethiopian UN peacekeepers.

Under the proposal made by AU mediators, the referendum would give members of the Dinka, a dominant South Sudanese tribe who live in the Abyei area, the right to vote along with Sudanese with "permanent abode".

The nomadic Arab Misseriya tribe, who regularly graze their animals and move through Abyei, have objected to the plan.



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