ADDIS ABABA — The first week of renewed negotiations between Sudan and South Sudan ended without any new agreement. Border issues remain the main cause of disagreements between the two countries.
The first week of negotiations focused mainly on the border and related oil and security issues. But there hasn’t been a breakthrough yet.
The two countries are facing a United Nations deadline of September 22 to reach agreements on those issues and others or face possible sanctions. The talks resumed this week in Ethiopia’s capital after an agreement on transporting southern oil through the north was reached last month.
Mutrif Siddiq is a panel member for the Sudanese delegation and is in line to be the future ambassador to South Sudan. He says that the mood during the negotiations has become much better over the months. “I think the mood has changed a lot. It's not yet 100 percent perfect, we had maybe a sort of distance between the two sides but gradually we managed to cross this area. Things are much better than it used to be," he added. "Three, four, five months ago because we realize that this has been a dragging process and it should come to a successful end.”
Michael Makuei is the South Sudanese minister for parliamentary affairs and the chairperson of the border committee. He says that if the countries can reach an agreement on the border, the other outstanding issues can be solved quickly. “If the map is accepted, security issues will be resolved. If for the oil, we are almost agreeing it is in the final stage. On the issue of the economics issues, the same, we are almost ending. For the nationality and other related issues, there was already initial agreement and that agreement need only to be put in its final form," he said. "So that it is signed by the summit when they come and see.”
The summit Makuei speaks of is a planned meeting between President Salva Kiir of South Sudan and President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan, who are expected to meet one week before the deadline to formalize the agreements.
However, agreement on the issues has proven elusive. The U.S. representative to the United Nations, Susan Rice, said Thursday that she feels there is a lack of urgency in the talks that could eventually lead to outright conflict.
Makuei says any holdup comes from Sudan and the African Union High-Level Implementation Panel that is mediating the talks. “That was unfair actually to say that there was lack of urgency on both sides, because the issues which are in question now have nothing to do with us," he stated. "But the issues have partly to do with the AU-HIP itself and the other part, the government of Sudan. For us in the republic of South Sudan we are not delaying in anyway and have come to agree and to conclude this agreement.”
South Sudan gained independence from Sudan in 2011 under a 2005 agreement that ended the long Sudanese civil war. Disputes over oil and the contested Abyei region led to clashes along the border earlier this year, raising concerns if the countries could slip back into war again.
Military clashes between the two Sudans could have serious consequences for the region, says political science lecturer Dirbdil Assefa of Addis Ababa University
“When it comes to the Horn of Africa where there are lot of issues that are very much interconnected, it can range from different ethnic groups that are living in different parts of the country, and regimes having different kind of affiliation and interest to different regions. And also problems related to poverty and others," said Assefa. "All these issues will be coming and definitely it will cause and bring its impacts on the region.”
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has repeatedly urged the two Sudans to resolve their differences at the negotiating table.