Sudan, S.Sudan border talks held up

Sudan warns of renewed hostilities with newly independent neighbour South Sudan

Sudan flag. Picture: AFP

ADDIS ABABA - Sudan warned of renewed hostilities with newly independent neighbour South Sudan as disagreements over the creation of a demilitarised border zone held up peace talks between the former civil war foes on Wednesday.

The two countries are at odds over a string of issues, including their porous frontier, how much the landlocked South should pay to transport its oil through Sudan and the division of national debt.

Both sides returned to negotiations in Addis Ababa last week after a series of clashes over the oil-producing Heglig border area threatened to drag them back into a full-scale war.

But after embarking on their first high-level talks on border security on Monday, South Sudanese officials said the two countries have so far failed to agree on the stretches of a demilitarised zone proposed through maps from both sides.

"What we are saying is that we should be withdrawing 10 km (6 miles) south of their borderline, and they should be withdrawing 10 km just north of our borderline," Foreign Minister Nhial Deng told Reuters.

"We are yet to agree on the lines from which the safe demilitarised border zone is going to be drawn," he said.

Khartoum, in turn, accused Juba of stoking tensions by making fresh claims to Heglig through its map.

South Sudan seized the Heglig oilfield in April, before withdrawing under heavy international pressure.


The area is central to Sudan's economy, which already has had to cope with the loss of most of its oil revenues after the South seceded.

"The inclusion of Heglig in the new South Sudan map will constitute, legally speaking, a threat to use of force and it is not helping us to reach this negotiated settlement to which we aspire," said Omer Dahab, spokesman for the north's delegation.

"Any deviation from this internationally agreed map will definitely bring about causes of tension again in the border area and we would like to clearly state that this will not help in enhancing the relations and arriving at a negotiated settlement."

To back its claim to the field, Khartoum has cited a 2009 ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague that said Heglig was not part of the disputed Abyei territory.

Maps issued by the court appear to put Heglig in the north.

Juba hotly contests Khartoum's claim, often citing an internal boundary marked by British colonial administrators, and the ethnicity of the local population. Many southerners call the area Panthou.