Khartoum willing to settle differences- AU mediator

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Khartoum- African Union (AU) mediator, former President Thabo Mbeki, on Saturday said the Sudanese government is willing to settle its differences with South Sudan through dialogue, provided that the security issue is set as its top priority.

Mbeki, acting as head of the AU High-Level Implementation Panel on Sudan, held talks in Khartoum with Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir as part of the AU's efforts to persuade Sudan and South Sudan governments to resume negotiations on their unresolved issues.

At the same time, a deadline set by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) for the two sides to resume talks has elapsed. On May 2, the UNSC adopted a resolution demanding Sudan and South Sudan immediately cease all hostilities and hold unconditional negotiations maximally by May 16.

Following his meeting with al-Bashir, Mbeki told reporters that the Sudanese president stressed that no effort should be spared to guarantee the security of the two countries and that Sudan is committed to the implementation of existing agreements regarding the issue.

Mbeki said Sudan is also committed to the creation of a demilitarized zone aimed at separating the two armies along the 1956 border as well as to launch joint efforts to verify the border.

He further reiterated the AU's keenness to facilitate the two sides' talks to ensure they will produce agreements that can bring about peace and security.

Also, Abrahim Ghandour, Secretary of External Relations of the ruling National Congress Party, for his part, reiterated Khartoum' s insistence to set the security issue as the top priority of its talks with South Sudan.

Mbeki on Thursday started his visit to Khartoum in a bid to persuade Sudanese officials to resume negotiations with their South Sudanese counterparts.

Mbeki is scheduled to visit Juba today to meet South Sudan President Salva Kiir Mayardit on the details of the negotiations, which is expected to be held in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa.

The AU mediator is scheduled to return to Khartoum on Tuesday to complete his consultations.