JUBA – Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir has promised his South Sudanese counterpart he is willing to resolve the border dispute between their two countries.
Bashir made the remarks on Wednesday during Kiir’s two-day state visit to Khartoum, seen as a step further to resolve border hostility and mutual accusations of supporting rebels in each other’s country.
This is Kiir’s third visit to Khartoum since the Christian-majority south split from the Muslim north in 2011 after a 22-year civil war that killed hundreds of thousands.
“Sudan is keen to resolve all pending issues … and activate political and security mechanisms in order to take bilateral relations forward,” Bashir told Kiir at their meeting, according to the official news agency SUNA.
“Sudan is supporting South Sudanese people and has kept open its territories to deliver humanitarian aid to South Sudan and will also step up efforts for peace in South Sudan,” Bashir said.
Long standing wrangles have soured ties between Khartoum and Juba since South Sudan gained independence six years ago.
Border disputes, economic issues such as Juba’s payments for the use of an oil export pipeline through Sudan and building a buffer zone along the frontier are expected to dominate talks during Kiir’s visit.
Juba-based Eye Radio reported defense ministers from both Sudan and South Sudan agreed to deploy joint forces along the border and open crossing points that have been closed to traders for several years.
Officials will also attempt to address tensions over alleged support for insurgents. Sudan has regularly accused its neighbour of aiding rebels in its war-torn Darfur, Blue Nile and South Kordofan regions, while Juba has accused Khartoum of aiding Kiir’s opponent and former deputy Riek Machar in South Sudan’s ongoing civil war.
The status of the contested border district of Abyei also remains an unresolved issue.
“This visit (of Kiir) is aimed at normalising the relations between the two countries which have been tense,” South Sudanese Information Minister Michael Makuei told reporters minutes after Kiir arrived in Khartoum.
“The two countries should cooperate in the interests of their people as they are all one people in two countries.” he was quoted by Eye Radio.
Tens of thousands of people have been killed in South Sudan and millions more have been driven from their homes since the war erupted in the world’s youngest country in December 2013.
More than 450,000 South Sudanese refugees have poured into Sudan since the war broke out, the United Nations says. Khartoum estimates they number 1.3 million.
Juba said it appreciates Khartoum’s efforts to accept the growing number of refugees.
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