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Sudan's Bashir on first visit to South Sudan since split

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2013-04-13

Sudan's President Omar Hassan al-Bashir (pictured) said on Friday he wanted to foster normal ties with South Sudan after arriving in the country for the first time since its secession in 2011.

Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir said on Friday he wanted normal ties with his nation’s old adversary South Sudan on his first visit there since southern secession in 2011.

The neighbours agreed in March to resume cross-border oil flows and ease tension that has been permanent since South Sudan’s independence in July 2011 following a 2005 treaty which ended decades of civil war.

But the rivals in one of Africa’s longest conflicts still dispute much of their 2,000-km (1,200-mile) border including ownership of the symbolically important region of Abyei.

Bashir, who cancelled a visit to Juba a year ago when border fighting almost flared into full-scale war, said in a speech in the southern capital that he had ordered Sudan’s borders with South Sudan to be opened for traffic.

“I have instructed Sudan’s authorities and civil society to open up to their brothers in the Republic of South Sudan,” Bashir said alongside South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir.

Kiir said he had agreed with Bashir to continue talks to solve all outstanding conflicts between the African neighbours.

“I and President Bashir agreed to implement all cooperation agreements,” Kiir said.

Security was tight during the visit to the ramshackle capital which, like the rest of the country, has few paved roads. Police lined main streets, which had been closed and festooned with the flags of both countries, as the leaders drove from the airport to the presidential office.

Many South Sudanese are tired of conflict and crisis.

“We need to live in harmony. We need peace between Sudan and South Sudan,” said 22-year old engineering student Robert Mori.

Edmund Yakani, head of the Community Empowerment for Progress Organization (CEPO) which promotes values of civil society, said Bashir’s visit showed he wanted peace.

Disagreements also remain over how much the landlocked south should pay to export its oil through Sudan.

The new African country shut down its 350,000 barrel a day output in January 2012 at the height of the pipeline fee dispute, with a devastating effect on both struggling economies.

The two sides subsequently agreed to restart oil shipments, grant each others’ citizens residency, increase border trade and encourage close cooperation between their central banks.

Last week, South Sudan re-launched crude production with the first oil cargo expected to reach Sudan’s Red Sea export terminal at Port Sudan by the end of May.

Both nations withdrew troops from border areas as agreed in an African Union-brokered deal in September. But they took until March to set up the demilitarized border zone.

Bashir last visited Juba on July 9, 2011, to attend the ceremony marking South Sudan’s formal separation.

About two million people died in the war that was fuelled by divisions over religion, oil, ethnicity and ideology.

(REUTERS)

Date created : 2013-04-12

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