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Sudan ready to negotiate with SPLM-N rebels: official

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March 20, 2013 (KHARTOUM) – The Sudanese minister of Defense Abdel-Rahim Mohammed Hussein disclosed that his government received a fresh letter from South Sudan president Salva Kiir confirming disengagement with Sudanese rebels in South Kordofan and the Blue Nile states, pointing out that Khartoum and Juba have agreed to stop supporting rebel movements in both countries.

Hussein, who was speaking at a press conference in Khartoum airport upon his return from Addis Ababa, said that the cooperation agreement between with South Sudan paves the way for the negotiations between the Sudan and the Sudan People Liberation Movement North (SPLM-N).

The defense minister confirmed Khartoum's new position that it is “ready to negotiate with the SPLM-N” but only based on the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA).

Sudan has been strongly resisting regional and international pressure to negotiate with SPLM-N rebels calling its leader outlaws and issued arrest warrants for them.

The SPLM-N fought alongside the South during its protracted civil war with the north, with conflict flaring in 2011 between Khartoum and rebels fighting for the removal of the Arab-dominated regime.

South Sudan armed and trained SPLM-N when it was part of the South's rebel force but maintains it cut all military ties before South Sudan's independence in July 2011.

The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolution issued in May 2012 ordered Sudan and the SPLM-N to cooperate in order to end the conflict in the two regions. Under the resolution, the two parties are supposed to negotiate on the basis of the 28 June 2011 agreement they signed in Addis Ababa before it was scrapped by Sudanese president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir.

The Sudanese defense minister hailed the recent deal with Juba saying that they now “opened a new page" in relations between the two ex-foes.

Hussein noted that the two countries have agreed to create a buffer zone by withdrawing theur respective forces 10 kilometers away from the borders besides establishing two mechanisms to monitor violations.

He explained that the first mechanism will monitor compliance with the implementation of the buffer zone agreement and the second one will monitor attacks carried out by one party against the other in a 40 kilometers distance (20 kilometer inside each country). Both mechanisms will commence their work on March 24, and shall report back on March 26.

Both parties, says Hussein, agreed to set up an international mechanism to look into complaints. Its membership will be selected after the meeting of the two sides in Addis Ababa next April and until then all complaints will be submitted to a joint committee comprised of military intelligence teams in both countries.

The parties agreed to submit their respective proposals regarding the work of this committee and its scope is to be discussed at a special meeting set by the African mediation

The agreement, which was distributed by the mediation team, stipulated that the new mechanism will deal with any concerns or complaints that could constitute a violation to the non-aggression agreement signed on February 14, 2012 and the joint cooperation accords signed on September 27, 2012, including harboring or supporting rebel movements in the other country.

Both Sudan and South Sudan, in September last year signed a series of cooperation agreements, which covered oil and citizenship rights as well as security issues, among others. Earlier this month, the two countries signed an implementation matrix for these cooperation agreements.