KHARTOUM, May 23 – Sudan and South Sudan will resume talks next week that were suspended after border fighting in April, African Union mediator Thabo Mbeki said on Tuesday.
“Now we have an agreement from both presidents, President (Omar-al) Bashir and President Salva Kiir, that the lead negotiation panels from both sides will meet next week,” Mbeki said after meeting the Sudanese leader.
His announcement came despite allegations hours earlier by South Sudan that Khartoum’s warplanes had bombed a border region on Monday and Tuesday.
If confirmed, the bombing would violate a May 2 United Nations Security Council resolution which demanded the two nations cease weeks of hostilities that the UN said posed a serious threat to regional peace and security.
Mbeki said the negotiators will next week “look at all the elements of the decisions made by the African Union and Security Council”.
An African Union resolution formed the basis of the UN’s May 2 demands, which threatened sanctions if they are not met.
Mbeki did not give a precise date for next week’s negotiations.
The former South African president has shuttled between Khartoum and the South Sudanese capital Juba since last week in an effort to push both sides back to talks.
Sudan and South Sudan did not comply with the UN Security Council’s demand that they resume their dialogue by last Wednesday.
The South said it was ready to talk and accused Khartoum of stalling.
After meeting with Kiir on Monday Mbeki said: “It is important that our panel convene the two parties as urgently as possible”.
Following months of AU-led meetings in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, Sudan withdrew from the process after South Sudanese troops seized the north’s main oil region of Heglig on April 10.
A subsequent 10-day occupation coincided with Sudanese air raids on South Sudanese territory, leading to fears of wider war.
The talks aim to settle critical issues left unresolved after the South’s separation in July last year following a 1983-2005 civil war.
These include oil payments, the status of each country’s citizens resident in the other, the status of the contested Abyei region, and resolution of disputed and “claimed” border areas as well as demarcation of the frontier.
South Sudan’s Information Minister, Barnaba Marial Benjamin, told reporters on Tuesday that Sudanese bombings had resumed this week.
He said they targeted the Werguet area of Northern Bahr el Ghazal state, a border region close to Sudan’s South Darfur.
“South Sudan is watching this crisis very closely… we will be forced also to react to these acts of aggression,” he said, without giving further details.
The air strikes could not be independently confirmed, and Sudan’s army repeatedly denied earlier Southern claims of air strikes.
The last air raid reported by the South was on May 9.