The Presidents of Sudan and South Sudan met in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa on Friday (January 25) in another attempt to defuse tensions over ongoing issues including oil and territory.
The neighbors came close to war in April 2012 in the worst border clashes since South Sudan declared independence from Sudan in 2011.
After mediation from the African Union (AU), both agreed in September to resume oil exports from the landlocked South through Sudan, a lifeline for both struggling economies.
But mutual distrust remains from one of Africa’s longest civil wars and neither side has yet withdrawn its armies from the 2,000-km border, a condition for both to restart oil flows.
To end the stalemate, the AU brought together Sudan’s President Omar Hassan al-Bashir and South Sudan’s Salva Kiir to Ethiopia two weeks ago.
But after a week of talks in Addis Ababa to discuss how to set up the buffer zone, as agreed by the presidents, both sides accused each other of making new demands.
Sudan has accused its southern neighbor of backing a rebel group called the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-North), which still controls part of the Sudanese side of the border, complicating the creation of a buffer zone.
The SPLM-North is made up of fighters who sided with the South during the civil war.
South Sudan, which says Sudan often bombs its territory, shut down its entire oil output of 350,000 barrels per day (bpd) a year ago after failing to agree export and transit fees with Khartoum. It had hoped to be producing 230,000 bpd by December.
Crude from southern fields will take two months to reach the Red Sea terminal on Sudan’s coast after output resumes, South Sudan said this month, suggesting exports are unlikely to hit markets until April or even May after the latest delay.
Apart from oil and the buffer zone, the two countries must also agree on ownership of Abyei and other disputed areas.