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S. Sudan President Seeks Meeting with Sudan’s Leader

South Sudan President Salva Kiir (R) and his Sudanese counterpart Omar Al-Bashir look on during a photo opportunity at the state house in Juba Jan. 6, 2014.

South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir has officially written to Sudanese President Omar Hassan Al-Bashir proposing talks to deepen bilateral relations and security cooperation, according to Ateny Wek Ateny, South Sudan presidential spokesperson.

Ateny also said the negotiations would include ways to resolve the dispute over the oil-rich Abyei region. Its status has yet to be determined in spite of an agreement signed between Juba and Khartoum in September 27, 2012.

“One of the issues is the cooperation agreements that were signed between the Sudan and the Republic of South Sudan. The other issue is the outstanding issue about Abyei [whose case] remains unresolved, and the matter has been referred to the two heads of state. So it is incumbent on the two presidents to seek to meet at any convenient time so that they discuss the outstanding issues,” said Ateny.

He said the meeting between the two neighboring heads of state is likely to be scheduled at the end of the month, since he said President Kiir will be attending the United Nation’s General Assembly in New York.

“If this meeting were to be scheduled by the Sudan government next week then [President Kiir] will not be available…If President Al-Bashir is traveling to New York then they can meet on the sidelines,” said Ateny. “If President Bashir doesn’t want to go to the U.N. General Assembly, then the meeting should take place any other time after the return of President Salva Kiir from America some time at the end of this month.”

Sudan and South Sudan often trade accusations of supporting rebel groups fighting each other’s government.

Some supporters of the ruling party in South Sudan accuse Khartoum of supporting rebels loyal to former vice president Riek Machar. They contend that Sudan has been arming and training the rebels with an aim to destabilize South Sudan. The government in Khartoum has dismissed the accusation as false and without merit.

But Ateny said the administration in Juba has yet to officially accuse Khartoum of training and providing logistical support to the militants.

“If there is any issue that requires the Republic of South Sudan to raise complaints against Khartoum on the issue of supporting the rebels, that would be addressed by the two presidents,” said Ateny.

“But up to now, South Sudan’s government has not yet launched any official complaint against Khartoum,” said Ateny. “If Khartoum is actually training the rebels it would be easy to know because we have a vast border between ourselves…If the rebels are coming to attack South Sudan from our northern neighbor, we will automatically know that they are coming from Khartoum.”

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