Bashir to visit South Sudan Friday: presidency

"It's confirmed that President Bashir will visit Juba this Friday," Emad Sayed Ahmed, the presidential press secretary, told AFP on Tuesday/FILE[/caption]
"It's confirmed that President Bashir will visit Juba this Friday," Emad Sayed Ahmed, the presidential press secretary, told AFP on Tuesday/FILE

, KHARTOUM, Apr 9 – Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir will travel to South Sudan on Friday, his office said, in a further sign of easing tensions between the two neighbours which fought along their common border last year.

“It’s confirmed that President Bashir will visit Juba this Friday,” Emad Sayed Ahmed, the presidential press secretary, told AFP on Tuesday.

He had no further details about the trip, which will be Bashir’s first since he attended South Sudan’s independence celebrations on July 9, 2011, following a near-unanimous referendum vote for separation after a 22-year civil war.

Independence left key issues unresolved, including how much the South should pay for shipping its oil through Sudanese pipelines for export.

South Sudan stopped all of its crude production early last year, cutting off most of its revenue after accusing Khartoum of theft.

The two nations battled on their undemarcated border one year ago, raising fears of wider war, and intermittent clashes continued in subsequent months.

But at talks in Addis Ababa last month, Sudan and South Sudan finally settled on detailed timetables to improve relations by resuming the oil flows and implementing eight other key pacts.

The deals had remained dormant after signing in September as Khartoum pushed for guarantees that South Sudan would no longer back rebels fighting in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states.

But since timetables were agreed, official delegations from the two countries have held a series of meetings to begin implementing the pacts.

South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir telephoned Bashir after the Addis timetables were reached, inviting him for the summit. Bashir agreed but no date had been confirmed until Tuesday.

Last Saturday South Sudan held a ceremony to restart oil production, which official Sudanese media said would be shipped again from Port Sudan in the north by the end of May.

“This is a sign of peace,” South Sudan oil minister Stephen Dhieu Dau said, as crowds danced in celebration. “No way are these sisterly countries to live without peace, and oil will play a great role to keep the peace in Sudan and South Sudan.”

The shutdown has cost both impoverished nations billions of dollars. China was the biggest buyer of the oil.

South Sudan separated with roughly 75 percent of the 470,000 barrels per day of crude produced by the formerly unified country.

Refineries and export pipelines stayed under Khartoum’s jurisdiction but the two countries could not agree on how much Juba should pay to use that infrastructure, including the Red Sea export terminal.

South Sudan said petroleum provided 98 percent of its revenue.

The Addis agreements, among other provisions, also call for a re-opening of border crossings which will allow trade to resume.

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