North, South Sudan Try to Finalize Deal on Abyei

Posted June 14th, 2011 at 10:30 am (UTC-5)
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Negotiators for north and south Sudan remain in talks to finalize a reported deal on the disputed Abe region.

VOA correspondent Peter Heinlein says the presidents of north and south Sudan have left the talks in Ethiopia's capital, but that meetings with lower-level officials continue.

North Sudan's army seized control of oil-rich Abe last month, prompting tens of thousands of residents to flee the region.

On Monday, African Union mediators said the sides had agreed in principle to demilitarize Abe and to allow Ethiopian peacekeepers into the area.

Southern official Arop Deng told reporters Tuesday that the sides are now exclusively focused on security issues in Abe.

Both north and south Sudan claim ownership of Abe. The dispute has raised fears of renewed war in Sudan as the south prepares to declare independence on July 9.

Meanwhile, the United Nations says north Sudan launched new airstrikes Tuesday in Southern Kordofan state, on the border where northern troops have been fighting southern-aligned militia for more than a week.

A spokesman says the bombing campaign is causing “huge suffering” among civilians and threatening humanitarian aid efforts.

Earlier, the United Nations refugee agency appealed for access to Southern Kordofan. An agency spokeswoman says humanitarian flights have been denied permission to land in the state capital, Kadugli, and that land access is being blocked by militiamen.

The U.N. agency says the fighting in Southern Kordofan has displaced more than 40,000 people and killed at least 10 civilians.

North and south Sudan fought a 21-year civil war that ended with a 2005 peace deal. The south voted overwhelmingly to split from the north in a January referendum.

Abe was scheduled to hold a separate referendum on whether to join the north or south, but the poll failed to happen because the sides could not agree on who was eligible to vote.