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ADDIS ABABA - 4 Jan 2013

Sudan, South Sudan leaders to meet Saturday

The President of Sudan Omar al-Bashir and the President of South Sudan Salva Kiir are scheduled to meet on Saturday in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Each president is to hold separate closed-door meetings on Friday night with involved parties at the Ethiopian presidential palace, followed by a dinner before Saturday's summit between the two leaders.

Thabo Mbeki, chairman of the African Union High-Level Implementation Panel on Sudan, and Hailemariam Desalegn, Ethiopia’s prime minister, are scheduled to first meet with al-Bashir, sources revealed. They added that a similar tripartite meeting with Kiir would follow.

It is expected that the agenda will be how to speed up implementation of the agreement the two presidents signed in Ethiopia last September.

The African Union, backed by Western powers, is urging both presidents to hold Friday's talks to try again to reach a deal.

'Seize the opportunity'

In a joint statement released on Thursday, the United Kingdom, United States and Norway urged al-Bashir and Kiir to “seize the opportunity for peace now” in light of their meeting in Ethiopia.

The Foreign Ministers from the 'Troika' countries, as the three powers call themselves in their joint dealings with Sudan, “welcomed the news that the Presidents of Sudan and South Sudan are to meet in Addis Ababa on 4 January” and called for the two countries to implement agreements on border security and oil, and to resolve all other outstanding issues.

Nevertheless, the Troika also expressed its “regret that progress in implementing the Agreements signed on 27 September has stalled and in particular that the agreed security arrangements at the border are not yet in place.”

“We call on the two leaders now to address concretely all outstanding issues and ensure that the armed forces of the two countries immediately withdraw from the demilitarised zone and deploy the Joint Border and Verification and Monitoring Mechanism (JBVMM), in line with what has been agreed.”

In addition, the Troika underlined its “support for the approach taken by the African Union to the question of Abyei.”

“The proposal made by former President Mbeki is based on the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, including the Abyei Protocol.”

United Nations

The UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon also welcomed the meeting between the “leaders of Sudan and South Sudan, aimed at resolving a range of issues between their countries,” according to his spokesperson.

Ban Ki-moon “encourages both Presidents to address decisively all outstanding issues between Sudan and South Sudan regarding security, border demarcation and the final status of the Abyei Area, to urgently activate agreed border security mechanisms, and implement all other agreements signed on 27 September 2012,” a statement read.

“The United Nations stands ready to support the parties in implementing their agreements and to assist in the resolution of all remaining disputes,” he added.

Photo: President Omer Hassan al-Bashir ( L) shakes hands with his South Sudanese counterpart Salva Kiir in Addis Ababa on 14 July 2012 (SUNA)