Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir held talks with his South Sudanese counterpart Salva Kiir in Juba on Friday, as the two nations are being urged to resolve their outstanding differences and find a permanent peace.
The meeting took place behind closed doors.
Al-Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of crimes against humanity in relation to the conflict in Sudan’s western Darfur region, touched down to beefed up security in the southern capital.
The Sudanese president was accompanied by key Ministers, including those in charge of the interior, security, petroleum and commerce portfolios. He also brought along a business delegation which is to meet with South Sudanese traders.
Sudan’s ambassador to the South, Mutrif Siddiq, dubbed the two nations “sister countries,” in comments to the State-run Suna news agency in Khartoum prior to the trip.
Demilitarised buffer zone.
Mr. Siddiq added that the visit “comes in a positive atmosphere and (at a) time witnessing a remarkable breakthrough in relations between Khartoum and Juba.” The trip follows the two governments reaching agreements in March on resuming southern oil production and exporting the crude via northern pipelines. The sides have also formalised other deals, including for a demilitarised buffer zone.
South Sudan Government spokesman Barnaba Marial Benjamin said: “President Bashir’s visit is expected to push for swift implementation of the agreements.” Last weekend, the south announced that oil production had resumed for the first time in more than a year.
South Sudan took about two-thirds of Sudan’s oil reserves when it became independent, but relies on northern pipelines to bring the natural resource to market, as it has no transport system of its own.
“This marks another major step in the normalisation of relations between Sudan and South Sudan, as well as a turning point in the economic fortunes of both countries, which have suffered greatly since oil production was halted in 2012,” said African Union chief Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.
South Sudan became independent after decades of civil war in July 2011 — the last time Bashir was in Juba. At the time, the two countries had failed to agree on the exact demarcation of their borders, citizenship arrangements and oil revenue sharing.
Several months later, the countries had to be pulled back from the brink of an all-out war. The AU has since been mediating to find a way to stabilise East Africa.
Dlamini-Zuma urged both sides “to use the opportunity afforded by this visit to address the remaining outstanding issues between them.”