Rival Sudans hold summit on Friday, signal concessions

Tue Jan 1, 2013 4:26pm EST
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By Ulf Laessing and Carl Odera

KHARTOUM/JUBA (Reuters) - The leaders of Sudan and South Sudan will meet on Friday to discuss how to improve border security and resume vital oil flows, both sides said on Tuesday as the feuding African neighbors signaled possible concessions.

The countries, which fought one of Africa's longest civil wars ending with a peace deal in 2005, signaled concessions ahead of the summit.

Sudan's President Omar Hassan al-Bashir and South Sudan's Salva Kiir accepted an invitation from Ethiopia to meet in Addis Ababa, spokesmen for both governments said.

The African Union, backed by Western powers, had urged holding the meeting in order to end a stalemate over how to set up a demilitarized buffer zone along the disputed border after the countries came close to war in April.

Bashir and Kiir agreed in September in Ethiopia to resume oil exports from the landlocked South through Sudan.

Juba shut down its oil production, a vital source of revenue for both countries, in January after failing to agree with Sudan on an export fee, one of several conflicts left over from South Sudan's secession in 2011.

Neither country has yet withdrawn its respective army 10 km (six miles) from the border to set up a buffer zone, a condition to restart oil flows. Both accuse each other of supporting rebels on the other's territory.

In a speech on New Year's Eve, Kiir said the new republic he leads was willing to withdraw its troops from the 1,800-km (1,200-mile) long border.   Continued...

Sudan's President Omar Hassan al-Bashir (C) waves next to Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud (R) after signing a document to signal the start of operations during the inauguration of the Roseires Dam's height increase in Damazin, at the conflict-stricken Blue Nile state, January 1, 2013. REUTERS/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah