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Sudanese talks drag on despite troops deal on Abyei

Tuesday June 14 2011

By AFP

ADDIS ABABA, Tuesday

Talks on Sudan dragged into a third day on Tuesday as delegations from the rival north and south thrashed out sticking points after a provisional deal that northern troops would leave Abyei.

The agreement also provides for Ethiopian peacekeepers to deploy into the disputed border region, an African Union (AU) official said.

“It’s an agreement in principle... ,” Mr Barney Afako, assistant to former South African president and chief AU mediator Thabo Mbeki, told AFP.

“There is a lot that still needs to be sorted out, like the funding of the Ethiopian peacekeepers, when they will be deployed, how many soldiers they will send,” he said.

“But I would say it’s significant progress, and we’re happy that both sides are here in Addis Ababa and engaged.”

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South Sudan’s Information Minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin said Monday that the north appeared to have agreed to remove its troops from the flashpoint area.

“We have information that they (the north) have accepted to withdraw from Abyei as long as they agree on the specific arrangement with regards to the Abyei administration,” he told the independent Sudan Radio Service.

Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir and his south counterpart Salva Kiir had both left the Ethiopian capital by Tuesday morning after two days of closed-door talks facilitated by the AU.

Senior officials from both sides remained in Addis Ababa to thrash out agreement on a host of outstanding issues ahead of southern independence in less than a month.

Afako said the presidential talks focused primarily on Abyei.