ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia — Sudanese President Umar al-Bashir and South Sudan’s Salva Kiir agreed to set up a demilitarized zone along their border “without further delay” as the nations seek to resume oil flows vital to the countries’ economies.
They also agreed to consider “matters relevant to the formation of the Abyei Area Referendum Commission” at a meeting on Jan. 13 in Addis Ababa, according to a statement posted on the African Union website after the presidents met in the Ethiopian capital Saturday. The African Union High-Level Implementation Panel for Sudan and South Sudan will draw up timeframes for implementation of agreements.
South Sudan, which gained independence in July 2011, shut down its 350,000 barrels a day in crude production last January after accusing the authorities in Khartoum of stealing $815 million of its oil, which Sudan said it took to recover unpaid transportation and processing fees. That and other disputes, including over border security, brought the countries to the brink of war in April.
The two countries also faced a stalemate over the disputed border region of Abyei. The area is contested by the Ngok Dinka people, who are settled in the area and consider themselves southerners, and Misseriya nomads, who herd their cattle into the area in the dry season and are supported by Khartoum.
The presidents at their Jan. 13 in Addis Ababa will consider setting up Abyei area administration, Abyei area council and Abyei area police service, according to the statement.
Both Juba and Khartoum retain troops within six miles of the border and accuse each other of backing rebels on their territory. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Norwegian Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide and U.K. Foreign Secretary William Hague last week urged the two sides to “seize the opportunity” and “immediately withdraw” armed forces from the border zone.
Sudan’s government has refused to allow South Sudan to resume oil shipments through its territory as agreed in September, accusing the authorities in Juba of continuing to support rebels in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile states. The oil is pumped mainly by China National Petroleum Corp., Malaysia’s Petroliam Nasional Bhd. and India’s ONGC Videsh Ltd.
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