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Sudan Tribune

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Ethiopia PM, U.S. Senator hold talks on South Sudan referendum

By Tesfa Alem Tekle

November 8, 2010 (ADDIS ABABA) – John Kerry, the chairman of the U.S Senate Foreign Relations Committee, on Sunday visited the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa and held discussions with Ethiopia’s Prime minister Meles Zenawi on issues concerning the upcoming referendum vote on the possible secession of south Sudan.

The US senator on Sunday concluded a two-day visit to Khartoum. Kerry’s previously unannounced visit was his second to Sudan in the space of less than a week. Kerry met with a number of high-up Sudanese officials, including 2nd Vice-President Ali Osman Mohamed Taha.

Sudan is only two months away from holding a politically sensitive vote in January 2011 on whether the semi-autonomous region of south Sudan, whose population is predominantly Christian or follows traditional beliefs, should secede from the Muslim-Arab dominated north.

The vote, which was promised under a 2005 peace deal that ended decades of north-south war, is likely to result in the full independence of south Sudan.

During their discussion, Prime Minister Meles Zenawi reaffirmed his government’s firm stance to continually work for the successful conclusion of the process of self-determination in south Sudan.

“Ethiopia will continue supporting the Sudanese Government and the Southern Sudan Administration to end the South Sudan crisis peacefully” the Prime Minister said.

Zenawi also said that his country Ethiopia was supporting the African Union High-Level Panel on Sudan, which is mandated to work for removing obstacles in the way of Southern Sudan referendum.

The Ethiopian leader, who currently holds the rotating chairmanship of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), called on the Sudanese parties to jointly and genuinely work towards conducting a successful referendum. Zenawi further urged the Sudanese peace partners to prepare for recognizing the outcome of the referendum.

The U.S congressman said he was hoping that South Sudan referendum would be completed in a peaceful and stabled manner. He said that the U.S administration accords priority to ending the issue of south Sudan independence.

Officials from the United Nations (UN) and the African Union (UN) met on Saturday, November 06, at AU headquarters Addis Ababa where they discussed the upcoming referenda on south Sudan’s independence.

Senior U.S officials revealed that Kerry had returned to Khartoum with a detailed offer from the US President Barack Obama to remove Sudan’s name from the list of countries sponsoring terrorism in exchange for pledges by the Khartoum government to organize a timely referendum and recognize its outcome.

Sudan foreign minister meets Ethiopian counterpart

On the margins of the UN-AU meeting, Sudan’s foreign ministers Ali Karti held separate discussions with his Ethiopian counterpart Hailemariam Desalegn on issues related to the Sudanese referendum as well as on bilateral ties and regional concerns.

“I came here for consultation meeting for the issue of the Sudan together with the African Union and the United Nations,” Ali Karti told journalists in Addis Ababa.

The Sudanese minister said his meeting with Ethiopian officials had touched on a variety of issues related to diplomacy, security affairs, economy and means of bolstering bilateral ties.

“We want to strengthen our economic cooperation. We work together on the neighborhood at very important area of Africa including some point on Somalia,” Karti said.

“We discussed on the responsibilities to work together for the area to be peace and development including the Sudanese Referendum, which will be held on 09 January 2011,” the minister added.

(ST)