Middle East

Juba starts troop withdrawal from Sudan border

Injured Chinese worker Shou Sheng Tau waves to Chinese residents as he arrives at Khartoum Airport January 17, 2013, after being released in western Darfur region. (REUTERS/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah)

ADDIS ABABA/JUBA: South Sudan started withdrawing its army Thursday from the border with Sudan to set up a buffer zone, the government said, part of a peace deal that stipulated both must pull back troops before oil exports can restart.

The countries came close to war in April in the worst border clashes since the South declared independence from the Sudan in 2011 under an agreement which ended decades of war.

After mediation from the African Union, they agreed in September to resume oil exports from landlocked South Sudan through Sudan. Oil is vital to both economies.

“By withdrawing its forces ... the government of South Sudan is clearly demonstrating its full compliance with the signed security agreements and full commitment to their implementation,” South Sudan’s government said in a statement. The pullout would be completed by Feb. 4 and South Sudan expected Sudan to do the same, the statement said.

Sudanese officials could not be reached for comment.

Mutual distrust remains deep and withdrawal from the disputed 2,000-km border was complicated by fighting on the Sudanese side between Sudan’s army and rebels that Khartoum says South Sudan supports. Juba denies this.

Security officials from both countries are in talks in Addis Ababa to discuss implementing the buffer zone.

South Sudan, which says Sudan often bombs its territory, shut down its entire oil output of 350,000 barrels per day a year ago after failing to agree export and transit fees with Khartoum.

Crude from southern fields will take two months to reach the Red Sea terminal on Sudan’s coast after output resumes, South Sudan’s oil minister said this month.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on January 18, 2013, on page 9.




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