Deadline looms for Sudan, South Sudan

2012-05-09 13:17

Khartoum - Sudan and South Sudan faced a United Nations deadline on Wednesday to pull troops back from their disputed border, as the South alleged violation of a ceasefire in effect since 04 May.

Both sides are to establish a "Safe Demilitarised Border Zone" and to jointly begin monitoring the frontier under a 02 May UN Security Council resolution.

The Security Council passed the resolution, saying the border situation "constitutes a serious threat to international peace and security".

The UN's call for a pullout from the disputed frontier is in line with agreements made by Sudan and South Sudan for a monitored demilitarised zone, but which they have failed to implement.

Under those plans, they were supposed to pull back 10km from the north-south border that was in place on 01 January 1956, when Sudan became independent.

The demilitarised zone would be monitored by observers from both sides, with security and other support provided by the UN's Interim Security Force for Abyei, or UNISFA, which is based in the contested region of Abyei.

But a foreign diplomat has said the two sides "refused to let UNISFA deploy along the border".

The 02 May UN resolution says the call for a demilitarised zone and border monitoring "in no way prejudices" negotiations over disputed areas, and border demarcation.

The South's army said on Wednesday it had pulled back 10km in line with the resolution.

But it said it was focused more on Sudanese air strikes which it alleged hit the South's border states on Monday and Tuesday in violation of the UN resolution's call to end hostilities from the evening of last Friday.

There was no immediate comment from Khartoum.

A border war between Sudan and South Sudan began in late March, escalating with waves of Sudanese air strikes against South Sudanese territory and the South's 10-day seizure of the Heglig oil field from Khartoum's army.

Both Khartoum and Juba pledged to seek peace after the Security Council resolution threatened sanctions if they do not comply.