Friday, May 25, 2012
Eritrean, Sudanese leaders hold talks in Asmara - Sudan Tribune: Plural news and views on Sudan
May 24, 2012 (ADDIS ABABA) - Eritrean President, Issais Afewerki, and his Sudanese counterpart Omer Hassan Al-Bashir held talks in Asmara on Thursday on a number of bilateral issues of mutual concern to the two East African countries.
Al-Bashir arrived in Asmara on Wednesday for a three-day trip to take part in the Red Sea nation’s 21st independence anniversary, according to Eritrean media outlets. Eritrea seceded from Ethiopia in 1993 after fighting a long war for independence against Addis Ababa.
The Sudanese-Eritrean talks dealt with enhancing bilateral ties and cooperation including making their shared border more open. Earlier this month Sudan and Eritrea agreed to abolish entry visa requirements, opening their common borders for free movement of both nationals.
The two sides also discussed the poor state of relations between Sudan and South Sudan, which culminated in a conflict over the Heglig border region last month.
South Sudan’s army (SPLA) seized Heglig’s oil fields for ten days in April, raising fears of a possible slide towards a full-blown war between the two neighbours less than a year after South Sudan seceded from Sudan as part of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement.
Despite a peaceful split last July, Sudan and South Sudan remain at loggerheads over a number of outstanding issues, including on border disputes and an oil transit fee dispute, which led to the total shut down of oil production severely affecting the oil-dependent economies of both countries.
The Africa Union and United Nations Security Council have called for both sides to resume talks and cease hostilities. Juba has accepted the UNSC resolution on 2 May but Khartoum wishes to place conditions on some issues, such as withdrawing from the disputed region of Abyei.
According to a report in April by the Small Arms Survey, an independent research project in Geneva, rebels fighting the South Sudanese government are receiving weapons and ammunition from Sudan and Eritrea.
Khartoum accuses Juba of backing rebels in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states and wants to prioritise security issues at the talks in order to force South Sudan to admitting that it backs it former colleagues. All sides deny the allegations.
Afewerki spoke against South Sudan’s military seizure of Heglig and called on the two sides resolve their dispute over the region peacefully. Juba says that it acted after repeated attacks on its territory from the region.
He further called for Khartoum and Juba to immediately normalise their relations.
Eritrea was the first foreign trip Al-Bashir made after his 2009 indictment for war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed in Darfur by the Hague-based International Criminal Court (ICC) in 2009. Genocide was added to the list of charges in 2010.
Eritrea, like may other African countries has rejected the ICC’s call for Bashir’s arrest.
The Sudanese government this week called on African nations to withdraw from ICC membership arguing that the continent must voice and act in a united stand against what Khartoum said were the “double standards” of ICC.