By MOHANAD OSAMA

South Sudanese President Salva Kiir Mayardit will pay an official visit to Sudan next week for bilateral talks over oil, according to the newly independent country’s government. Kiir will depart for Khartoum on Tuesday to meet with his counterpart, Omar Hassan al-Bashir.

Sudan’s foreign ministry said it welcomes the “important visit” and hopes it will speed the implementation of cooperation agreements and resolve pending issues to lay a foundation for solid strategic relations between the neighboring countries.

The visit is  Kiir’s second visit to Khartoum since South Sudan’s secession in 2011.

Kiir’s visit takes place three days before the end of a deadline imposed by Khartoum to end oil exportation over accusations of supporting rebel groups.

A Southern Sudanese delegation traveled to Khartoum to arrange Kiir’s visit. “The members of the delegation are going to prepare the ground for the visit of the president,” foreign ministry spokesperson Mawien Makol said.

Foreign Affairs Minister Barnaba Marial and Petroleum and Mining Minister Stephn Dhieu Dau will accompany Kiir on his visit, among others.

Kiir had been due to visit Khartoum earlier this month, with the delay attributed to recent political developments in South Sudan, in which the president sacked his deputy and fired his entire cabinet.

According to Makol, the issue of Abyei and the need to clarify all conditions attached to the full flow of oil between the countries would likely dominate the discussion between the two heads of state.

He expressed hope that the two heads of state will use the summit as an opportunity to discuss the way forward on the final status of the contested border region.

Sudan’s ruling National Congress Party (NCP) has announced before that  negotiations with the southern government  is the only possible means to resolve the dispute over the wealthy petroleum area of Abyei and overcome the obstacles that prevent the implementation of  cooperation agreements signed between Sudan and South Sudan.

The NCP’s press secretary, Yasser Youssef, said both sides should agree to a political consensus which resolves the dispute and accommodates the views of all residents in the disputed Abyei area.

In press statements following the weekly meeting of the NCP’s political secretariat on Sunday, he said the meeting had focused on Sudan’s relations with South Sudan, affirming that relations are evolving from good to better.

He further stressed that all outstanding issues, including Abyei, should be tackled only through dialogue and commitment to the Cooperation Agreement, underlining the need for strict adherence to implement the rest of the agreements’ protocols.

“We mention that because our relations with South Sudan are strategic ones and therefore should be built on solid grounds which enable us to overcome obstacles that prevent the implementation of the security agreement,” he added.

Sudan and South Sudan signed a series of cooperation agreements, which included oil, citizenship rights, security issues, banking, and border trade, among other things.

Last March, the two countries signed a matrix containing implementation timelines for these accords.

Abyei was supposed to hold a vote in January 2011 on whether its residents want to join Sudan or South Sudan. The referendum was delayed due to disputes between the pro-south Dinka Ngok tribes and the pro-north Misseriya tribe over who is eligible to vote.

Kiir and FM Marial  will travel to Khartoum to discuss implementing the March agreement with Bashir, according to South Sudan’s foreign ministry spokesperson, Mawien Makol Arik.

Khartoum has several times extended a deadline threatening a halt of oil flows. South Sudan relies heavily on oil exports and the shutdown could have serious implications. Diplomats doubt Sudan will actually close the two cross-border pipelines as it needs South Sudan’s payment of oil transit fees.

The matter is expected to top the agenda of the talks between the presidents of the two countries.

Translated from Youm7.

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