Sudanese forces have withdrawn from the contested border region of Abyei, the United Nations has said. Sudan and neighboring South Sudan have been embroiled in a violent dispute over the oil-rich region.
The disputed Abyei region was reportedly handed over to UN forces late on Tuesday after officials said Sudanese forces had withdrawn from the area.
"The UN peacekeeping mission in Abyei, UNISFA, has confirmed that the withdrawal of the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) from the Abyei area was completed today late in the evening," said UN peacekeeping spokesman Kieran Dwyer.
The pullout of troops from Abyei, a border area claimed by both Sudan and South Sudan, was also confirmed by the semi-official Sudan Media Center (SMC) agency.
"They gave the military compound there to UN peacekeepers," said SMC. Diplomatic sources said the pullout involved about 300 troops.
South Sudan had already pulled out its security forces in line with a May 16 deadline, set by the UN Security Council for both sides to demilitarize the territory.
Fighting along the disputed border had escalated in recent months over a number of issues which were left unresolved when South Sudan broke away from Sudan to form an independent country last July, following a UN-sponsored referendum on self-determination.
The demarcation of an ill-defined common border, the sharing of oil revenues and citizenship were all key points of contention between the nations, who until 2005 were embroiled in a two decade civil war, which left more than two millions people dead.
The pullout came as negotiators met in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa for the first time since the neighboring countries came close to the brink of war in April.
In a statement prior to the talks, South Sudan stressed its commitment "to reach a negotiated settlement" and promised "its full adherence to peace and stability between the two countries."
Sudan added that it hoped the talks would mark a "new chapter" in relations "away from conflict and warring."
Talks are set to continue on Wednesday.
ccp/msh (AFP, AP)