S Sudan president willing to withdraw forces from Sudan border

Carl Odera

President Salva Kiir is willing to remove the army from the border with Sudan, signalling a possible compromise with his Sudanese counterpart.

Salva Kiir and Omar Hassan al-Bashir are scheduled to meet this month at a summit to discuss the border zone.(AFP)

Kiir and Sudan's Omar Hassan al-Bashir agreed in September to withdraw troops from the disputed border as a precondition to resume oil exports from landlocked South Sudan through Sudan. Oil revenues are vital to both economies.

But both countries still have troops 10km from each other's border, and both accuse each other of supporting rebels on the other's territory.

Kiir and Bashir are scheduled to meet this month at a summit brokered by the African Union to discuss how to set up the border zone, which will be monitored by soldiers from both sides and UN peacekeepers.

"To be able to establish the border monitoring mission, we are temporarily withdrawing our forces from the immediate border areas," Kiir said in a speech on New Year's Eve.

"This will allow for a demilitarised border zone to be operational," he said without giving a date for the pullout.

Coordinating a dual withdrawal
South Sudan
's Information Minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin said the withdrawal would have to be coordinated between the two countries. He did not elaborate.

South Sudan seceded from Sudan under a 2005 peace deal, which ended decades of civil war. But both countries have yet to demarcate the border, which straddles oil production facilities.

The two rivals are also at odds over Abyei, an area between Sudan and South Sudan prized for its fertile grazing land. – Reuters

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