Sudan, South Sudan leaders to try to defuse tension at summit

Thu Jan 3, 2013 6:13pm EST
 

By Ulf Laessing

KHARTOUM (Reuters) - The leaders of Sudan and South Sudan meet on Friday to make another attempt to defuse hostilities after their countries split and restart cross-border oil flows to throw their beleaguered economies a lifeline.

Sudan's Omar Hassan al-Bashir and South Sudan's Salva Kiir have both signaled possible concessions at the talks in Addis Ababa to end a stalemate over how to set up a demilitarized buffer zone after the countries came close to war in April.

They signed agreements at a meeting in the Ethiopian capital in September to resume oil exports and secure the volatile border, but sharing deep mistrust after fighting one of Africa's longest civil wars, neither country has implemented the deals.

Both countries badly need the oil exports, for which Juba has to pay Khartoum millions of dollars. But analysts say they also need the confrontation with the other side to shore up domestic legitimacy and divert attention from their crumbling economies and widespread corruption.

The African Union, backed by Western powers, urged them to hold Friday's talks to try again to reach a deal.

Sudan's state news agency SUNA said late on Thursday Bashir would meet Kiir to discuss "speeding up" implementing the September deals. Kiir said in a speech on New Year's Eve the South was ready to withdraw its troops.

But diplomats remain skeptical of a quick breakthrough because both countries have a history of signing and then not implementing the agreements.

Since April's flare up, the worst violence since South Sudan seceded in 2011 after a 2005 peace deal ending the civil war, they have pulled back their armies from the almost 2,000 km (1,200 miles) border, much of which is disputed.   Continued...