KHARTOUM, (AFP) — Khartoum’s chief Abyei negotiator said the northern government was “open” to negotiations with south Sudan over the contested border region of Abyei and announced talks would resume Saturday.
Northern troops and tanks overran Abyei on Saturday, sending tens of thousands of residents fleeing and drawing condemnation from world powers who have warned the action is a threat to peace between north and south.
“We are open to negotiations,” said Al-Dirdiri Mohammed Ahmed, the National Congress Party’s chief negotiator on Abyei, late Thursday.
He said the NCP and the south Sudan People’s Liberation Movement would meet in Addis Ababa on Saturday for talks that will also include the African Union panel on Sudan and former South African president Thabo Mbeki.
“We hope that we will reach a compromise on a number of points,” Dirdiri told AFP, adding indirect negotiations were already underway between the two sides through the African Union panel on Sudan and the United Nations.
The northern troops have deployed as far south as the river River Kiir (Bahr al-Arab), which has become the front line between the Sudanese Armed Forces and southern troops.
Dirdiri said the SAF moved to the “northern part of Abyei area, till the northern bank of the river to drive” out forces of south Sudan People’s Liberation Movement from the disputed area.
“Their presence is definitely equal to our presence,” he said.
The SPLM “was supposed to leave all the area, including where they are now stationed south of the river, that is what the Kadugli agreement precisely says,” he said.
“We are now requesting the UNMIS (United Nations Mission in Sudan) to continue negotiating with SPLM their full withdrawal from the area as per the Kadugli agreement,” he said.
He added that northern troops will not withdraw until “robust mechanisms” were in place to prevent the south Sudan People’s Liberation Army or “any of its militias” from infiltrating the area.
“But, as a matter of principle, we are abiding by the CPA, the Abyei protocol, and we are not going to violate them,” he said in reference to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, which was signed in 2005 and ended two decades of bloody civil war between north and south Sudan.