Leaders meet and agree to talks
President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan and President Salva Kiir of South Sudan met yesterday for the first time since major border clashes in the Heglig region last year.
The two leaders met on the fringes of an African Union meeting in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa and agreed to restart talks to resolve issues around border disputes and oil transit through Sudan from oilfields in South Sudan.
The two countries have agreed to start immediate negotiations to meet a 2nd August deadline imposed on them by the Africa Union Peace and Security Council (PSC) and the United Nations Security Council UN resolution 2046 (2012).
The UN resolution is a lengthy legal text but can be summed up in the opening paragraph of the press release issued at the time on 2nd May 2012. It reads as follows:
“Condemning the repeated incidents of cross-border violence between Sudan and South Sudan, including seizure of territory, support to proxy forces and aerial bombing, the Security Council this morning decided that Sudan and South Sudan must immediately cease all hostilities, withdraw forces, activate previously-agreed security mechanisms, and resume negotiations under threat of sanctions.”
Both countries are facing economic hardships not least because South Sudan ceased oil production over a disputed $850 million of crude oil which Sudan is said to have taken.
Sudan has been forced into a major cost cutting exercise on government spending whilst South Sudan, already a desperately poor country until the oil revenues return, has been unable to start any of its major strategic projects.
South Sudan also suffers from widespread corruption. This led President Kiir to write to 75 former and current senior officials in May and ask them to return an estimated $4 billion which he described as stolen or unaccounted for in government budgets.