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South Sudan Seeks Arbitration to Resolve Issues With Sudan

South Sudan's President Salva Kiir (C) walks with Ethiopia's Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn (3rd L) as he arrives for talks with leaders from Sudan in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, January 4, 2013.
South Sudan is seeking international arbitration to resolve its issues with Sudan. South Sudan’s president proposed this to his northern counterpart on the first day of a summit in Addis Ababa.

President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan and President Salva Kiir of South Sudan arrived in Ethiopia's capital on Friday for a summit. The two presidents will discuss ways of implementing security and economic deals seen as crucial for maintaining peace between their countries.

Sudan and South Sudan signed nine agreements in September, including one to demilitarize their common border. But none of those agreements have been implemented so far.

Aiming for resolution

South Sudan’s chief negotiator Pagan Amum said that if the two countries cannot reach agreement on outstanding issues, the south would like to seek international arbitration.

“The way forward, our president believes, is for the African Union panel of experts be given the mandate to present to the two countries non-binding opinion on disputed and claimed areas," said Amum. "And if the there is no agreement or there is an outstanding issue, then the two countries will agree to take those outstanding disputes and claims to an international arbitration.”

South Sudan says international arbitration will be the most peaceful manner of resolving issues as long as the countries accept the outcome of the arbitration as final and binding. President Kiir will try to seek concurrence from the government of Sudan on this matter.

Oil and a shared border

The two presidents also will discuss the disputed oil-rich Abyei region along their border. The African Union urged the neighboring countries to settle the matter before the AU summit later this month. The pan-African organization would then make the decision on the final status of Abyei.

Amum said South Sudan is hopeful the summit will resolve all outstanding issues but feels Sudan is holding up implementation of the September agreements.

“President Salva Kiir in the summit with President al-Bashir will also be discussing to encourage President al-Bashir to remove the new preconditions and obstacles that are hindering the full implementation," said Amum. "These are obstacles and preconditions imposed by the government of Sudan. It should be implemented without preconditions."

Simmering conflict

The two Sudans have been at odds since the south became independent in July 2011 and took the bulk of Sudanese oil production.

Last April, disputes over oil and fighting along the border almost escalated into a full-fledged war.

Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalgen met with both presidents individually on Friday before Bashir and Kiir met with each other for a working dinner. The summit between the heads of state continues on Saturday.