Sudan, South Sudan leaders meet over disputes

July 15, 2012 - 1:38 PM
Ethiopia African Union Summit

In this image made from video, Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir, left, greets South Sudan's President Salva Kiir at the African Union summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Sunday, July 15, 2012. Delegates at the African Union summit are likely to focus attention on continuing hostilities between Sudan and the year-old state of South Sudan. (AP Photo)

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AP) — Aid agencies should have access to help internally displaced people fleeing from violence in Sudan and South Sudan, a top U.N. official said Sunday, one day after the leaders of the two nations met in a closed-door session.

The African Union summit called on the neighboring countries to resolve disputes over border and security issues by the Aug. 2 deadline set by the United Nations Security Council.

"The council calls on the two countries to speedily conclude agreements that would allow for the reopening of the border, facilitate the resumption of trade and support the livelihoods of border communities," said the AU's Peace and Security Council.

Leaders of both Sudan and South Sudan have addressed the meeting.

Sudan President Omar al-Bashir and South Sudan President Salva Kiir met late Saturday in a closed door meeting which lasted an hour, according to a senior official in the South Sudanese mission who declined to be named because he was not authorized to discuss the meeting publicly.

The official did not disclose details of the talks, which were the first meeting of the two presidents since a border dispute brought their nations close to war in April.

The African Union panel has been facilitating talks between the two sides since May 2010.

South Sudan broke away from Sudan last year after a peaceful vote, but violence has flared along the border. In addition, South Sudan shut down its oil industry after accusing Sudan of stealing some of the oil that it must ship through Sudan's pipelines. That decision has crippled both countries' economies.

The U.N. official, Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliason, said in a speech to the African Union on Sunday that hundreds of thousands of people in Sudan and South Sudan are "in grave need of assistance."

"Aid agencies should have the funds and access they need to assist internally displaced persons and refugees," he said.

Aid groups have decried the decision by Sudan to block access to its southern states of South Kordofan and Blue Nile, where thousands of refugees are fleeing war between Sudan's army and rebels fighting the government.

The AU-led talks so far unsuccessfully tried to ease fragile security issues between the two states, and resolve the status of the contested oil-rich region Abyei.

The talks were squashed in April when the two sides came close to a war after deadly border conflicts near the Heglig region.

Ethiopia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the two countries' negotiating teams resumed talks on Thursday in Ethiopia's regional city Bahir Dar.