ADDIS ABABA, Jul 5 – Rivals Sudan and South Sudan resumed security talks Thursday aimed at easing tensions on the disputed border, after they failed to reach a deal at negotiations last week.
The African Union-mediated talks in the Ethiopian capital first began after South Sudan’s independence last July, but the latest rounds follow weeks of fighting in April that brought the two foes back to the brink of all-out war.
“The two delegations are now here in Addis Ababa to resume talks,” said Khartoum delegation spokesman Omer Dahab. This round of talks is expected to last two or three days.
Dragging negotiations have so far failed to produce agreements on a raft of issues unresolved after the South’s independence, including border demarcation and pipeline transit fees to transport Juba’s crude through Sudan.
However, South Sudan’s negotiator Pagan Amum said as he arrived at the talks that he was “always optimistic”.
Intense fighting along the disputed oil-rich border in April prompted the UN Security Council to pass a resolution ordering the two sides to resume talks and resolve outstanding issues by August 2.
The UN Special Representative for South Sudan Hilde Johnson said she was hopeful the talks would soon produce results.
“I am more hopeful that things will move in the right direction now due to external factors, such as the pressure from the international community and pressure on the economies of both countries,” Johnson told reporters in Kenya.
South Sudan is gearing up for its first anniversary as an independent nation on July 9, when it split from Khartoum and took the bulk of the region’s oil.
It later shut down production in a furious dispute with Khartoum, accusing it of stealing crude from the pipelines passing through Sudan on which the landlocked South depends.
“Unless South Sudan is able to access increased funding from the outside or resumes oil production, the country will face significant economic difficulties,” Johnson added.
Sudan and South Sudan have since introduced tough austerity measures, sparking widespread protests in Khartoum last month.
The Sudanese delegation is led by senior government official Idriss Mohammed Abdel Qadir and Sudan’s Defence Minister Abdelrahim Mohamed Hussein, who is charged by the International Criminal Court with crimes against humanity in Sudan’s Darfur region.
South Sudan’s Defence Minister John Kong was also at the meeting.