Sudan, South Sudan border talks get nowhere, delay oil exports

Sudan

Sudan and South Sudan on Saturday failed to agree on how to withdraw armies from their disputed border after a round of talks in Ethiopia, delaying again the resumption of crucial oil exports.

The African neighbours came close to war in April in the worst border clashes since South Sudan seceded from Sudan in 2011 under a 2005 deal which ended decades of civil war.

After mediation from the African Union, both countries agreed in September to set up a demilitarized buffer zone and resume oil exports from landlocked South Sudan through Sudan. Oil is vital to both economies.

But neither side withdrew its army from the 2,000-km (1,200-mile) border due to mistrust left from one of Africa's longest civil wars.

To end the stalemate the AU brought together Sudan's President Omar Hassan al-Bashir and South Sudan's Salva Kiir two weeks ago in Ethiopia. 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.

"We were facing difficulties during the talks in Addis Ababa because of the changing position of South Sudan which keeps altering every time we reach an agreement," Sudan's defence minister Abdel-Rahim Mohammed Hussein told reporters after his return at Khartoum airport.

Talks would be postponed until Feb. 13, he said.

Hussein said South Sudan made new demands for demilitarization of a disputed border area called Mile-14 and had not given up support for rebels fighting Sudan's government.

Khartoum accuses Juba of backing Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-North) rebels in South Kordofan and Blue Nile, two Sudan states bordering the South. Juba denies this.

The SPLM-North, made up of fighters who sided with the South during the civil war, controls part of the Sudan side of the border, which complicates setting up the buffer zone.

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