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Security meeting to be held after approval of cooperation deal by South Sudan parliament - minister

October 12, 2012 (KHARTOUM) — South Sudan Minister of Information, Barnaba Marial Benjamin, said Friday that the delayed joint security meeting will take place once the cooperation agreement with Sudan is endorsed by the national parliament.

South Sudan Minister of Information, Barnaba Marial Benjamin (AP)

Following the signing of 27 September deals in Addis Ababa, Sudanese and South Sudanese defence ministers had to discuss the implementation of security measures pertaining to the border buffer zone and other issues. But the meeting was delayed twice.

Speaking to Sudanese radio in a talk show aired on Friday, Marial explained that the joint security committee and other panels will meet once the National Legislative Assembly ratifies the Addis Ababa deals. He further added that parliament will reconvene next week to vote on it.

On 2 October, President Salva Kiir asked the legislators to cut their recess and convene an urgent sitting in Juba to ratify the agreements. The house is expected to meet on Monday 15 October.

The South Sudanese government is facing a growing resistance from Malwal Dinka politicians who have mobilised Greater Bahr El-Gahzal MPs in an attempt to include some reservations in their vote of the security agreement related the disputed area of 14 Mile. This move also opened the door for other legislators to express their discontent over other aspects of the deals.

However, the minister reassured the Sudanese listeners saying that President Salva Kiir will speak to the lawmakers and brief them fully about the signed deals. He further praised the courageous move of the two presidents.

Bashir and Kiir held six days of meetings before signing nine agreements addressing issues including; security; oil transit fees; border trade; and the "four freedoms" deal inked in March 2012 allowing citizens of both states to enjoy freedom of residence, freedom of movement, freedom to undertake economic activity and freedom to acquire and dispose property.

The international community praised the deals but urged the two parties to settle the remaining issues of the Abyei referendum and status of other disputed areas.

Marial called on President Omer Al-Bashir and Sudanese government to open direct talks with the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement – North (SPLM-N), who have been fighting the Khartoum government since last year in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states.

The minister stressed the need to settle conflict difference on the basis of a protocol dedicated to the "Two Areas" included in the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement CPA.

He further repeated that Salva Kiir is ready to involve himself in this issue and facilitate an agreement between the two parties.

Marial repeated South Sudan’s denial that his government supports the SPLM-N, which fought with the SPLM/SPLA - know South Sudan’s ruling party and military - during the civil war that led up to the CPA. He describedJuba’s current relations with the SPLM-N as "a relationship of respect as they were part of the previous phase."

On Thursday, the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) rejected Salva Kiir’s offer saying the Sudanese rebels have to be disarmed before any talks begin. It was the SPLM-N’s refusal to disarm before key aspects of CPA protocol for the "Two Areas" implemented that triggered fighting in South Kordofan in the weeks leading until South Sudan’s independence in July 2011.

The minister said the deployment of Sudanese and South Sudanese troops along the border besides the presence of international observers in the buffer zone will limit the flow of arms; adding that optimism is prevailing in the two countries after the signing of the agreements, which are supported by the international community.

Marial noted that the opening of the border will strengthen the agreement as people from both sides will resume trade and discuss issues of bilateral interest.