Sudanese Talks on Abyei Hit 11th-Hour Snag

Posted June 19th, 2011 at 1:25 pm (UTC-5)
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North-South Sudanese talks on the status of the disputed Abyei region have hit a last-minute snag, just as a deal was to be signed to de-militarize the area.

Northern and southern leaders are trying to settle outstanding issues ahead of Sudan's scheduled July 9 split. But the talks ground to a halt late Saturday, and negotiations remained stalled on Sunday — over a few final details.

Talks began a week ago, after an agreement in principle by Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir and southern leader Salva Kiir to demilitarize the oil-rich Abyei region and allow an Ethiopian peacekeeping force into the territory. But optimism has since abated, after the two leaders returned home and left more hard-line subordinates to work out details.

A second provision of the deal — a 72-hour cease-fire allowing for the delivery of critically needed supplies to civilians in southern Kordofan state — also is threatened by the diplomatic standoff.

The north occupied Abyei last month — one of several developments that have raised fears of renewed war in Sudan as the south becomes independent.

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.

Former South African president Thabo Mbeki is leading the mediation team working with north and south Sudan.