ADDIS ABABA —
Sudan and South Sudan are reaching the final stages of their negotiations. Agreements can be finalized next week on most issues, except for the border.
The two countries recently resumed negotiations on economic questions, border areas, oil and security.
"Through this round, we are going to finalize the issue of oil if we manage to go quickly and finalize the supplementary agreement," noted Dr. Mutrif Saddiq of the Sudanese delegation. " Hopefully we finalize also the issue of security and I don't think that it s far from the reach because we are working hard with the panel and its experts to address the contested area of the 14 miles [22 kilometers] south of Bahar Alarab."
On oil, trade and economics, the two countries are drafting agreement frameworks in specialized committees. But a compromise on the dispute over borders is going to take a while. Prominent matters, such as the Abyei region, have not yet even been discussed.
Michael Makuei, the South Sudanese minister for parliamentary affairs and the chairman of the Border Committee, says says that a compromise on the border is just not happening yet.
"We have two main sticking issues," said Makuei. "The most important is the issue of the claim areas. The other sticking point on the border is Kaka town. Kaka town is a town inside South Sudan, which was thought to be a disputed area. Now the government of Sudan is talking of Kaka area. Kaka area is different from Kaka town and aside we are saying, if you are talking of Kaka area than you delete Kaka town from the disputed areas and take it to the claim areas."
Both countries face sanctions if they don't reach an accord by the United Nations deadline of September 22. Makuei says South Sudan believes that the government of Sudan will change its mind at the last minute and accept the United Nations map, because there is no other option.
"This is supposed to be a comprehensive agreement that encompasses everything," Makuei said. "Even the agreed ones will not be operational unless we agree on the other outstanding issues."
But Dr. Mutrif Saddiq of the Sudanese delegation doesn't think that it will be a problem if the two countries don't make the deadline.
"If we don't finish, the panel is at liberty to advise or to recommend to United Nations Security Council their recommendations and their views about the way forward," Saddiq explained. "Even the issue of the border, just for the experts, it will take months so the time is for the design of the way forward on the uncompleted issues, not necessarily to resolve the issues."
South Sudan gained independence in 2011 from Sudan, ending the Sudanese civil war. The presidents of both countries are expected to arrive in Addis Ababa just before the deadline, but a date has not been confirmed yet.