Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has said he would normalize ties with South Sudan, after the two countries nearly went to war last spring. But clashes remain common along the long-time enemies' disputed border area.
In his first visit to South Sudan since its independence in 2011, Sudanese leader Omar al-Bashir met with his counterpart Salva Kiir on Friday, as the two sides seek to implement a series of agreements reached last month in Ethiopia to resolve their outstanding disputes.
"This visit shows the start of cooperation based on a normalization of relations between the two countries," Bashir said during a speech in South Sudan's capital, Juba.
Prior to the visit, Sudan's ambassador to the south, Mutrif Siddiq, called the Sudans "sister countries" in comments to the state-run SUNA news agency. He also said the visit "comes in a positive atmosphere and [at a] time witnessing a remarkable breakthrough in relations between Khartoum and Juba."
Last week, South Sudan resumed its oil flow to Sudan, which it had shut down over a dispute with Khartoum about payments for using Sudan's energy infrastructure. Roughly two thirds of the region's oil is on South Sudanese territory, but all the transportation infrastructure belongs to the government in Khartoum. The oil shutdown cost both sides billions of dollars.
The two countries have also agreed to create a demilitarized buffer zone and implement seven other pacts agreed to at talks in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia last month.
Sudan and South Sudan came to the brink of conflict in the spring of 2012, over disputed territory and oil fields along their disputed border, which has not been demarcated yet. They fought a civil war from 1983-2005, which claimed more than a million lives.
slk/msh (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)