AU: North, South Sudan Agree to Demilitarize Abyei

Posted June 13th, 2011 at 7:25 pm (UTC-5)
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North and south Sudan have agreed in principle to demilitarize the disputed Abyei region and to allow an Ethiopian peacekeeping force into the area.

The two sides have also tentatively agreed to withdraw all forces from the heavily militarized Abyei region before the south secedes on July 9.

The agreement came after what were described as two days of difficult talks in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital, between Sudan's president, Omar Hassan al-Bashir, and the southern Sudanese leader Salva Kiir. More talks are to take place Tuesday with a Sudanese presidential deputy replacing Mr. Bashir.

A major stumbling block in the talks is the future administration of Abyei with the north continuing to insist on equal representation on any administrative body, a demand the south rejects.

The north occupied oil-rich Abyei last month, one of several developments that have raised fears of war in Sudan as the south becomes independent.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the U.S. wants northern troops to leave Abyei, and welcomes plans for Ethiopian peacekeepers to move in.

South Sudan voted to split from the north in a January referendum. The sides previously fought a 21-year civil war that ended in 2005.