Sudan and South Sudan have signed a “non-aggression” pact over their disputed border following talks in Addis Ababa where African Union-led negotiations between the two sides are being held.
The deal was signed by Thomas Douth, the head of South Sudan’s intelligence bureau, and Mohammed Atta, Sudan’s director of national intelligence and security.
“The two countries agree to non-aggression and co-operation,” Thabo Mbeki, the chief negotiator and former president of South Africa, told reporters on Friday.
According to the pact, the two sides agreed “respect for each other’s sovereignty and territorial integrity” and to “refrain from launching any attack, including bombardment”.
Al Jazeera’s Harriet Martin, reporting from Khartoum, said that one of the mediators told her there were no expectation of immediate change on the ground, but that the agreement would be a “means of calling [both countries] to account because they have signed up to the deal”.
Martin said that the memorandum of understanding covers five principles of which the two clauses referring to “no cross- border operations” and “no supporting of proxies” were the most important.
Just north of the border in south Kordofan, Juba is known to be supporting the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army/Movement (SPLA/M) north, which is a key point of tension between the countries at the moment, she said.
Border tensions between the two countries have mounted since South Sudan split from Sudan in July, becoming the world’s newest nation.
Negotiations between the two former civil war foes have been marred by eruptions of violence along the border, including in the contested Abyei and Blue Nile states.
While the two countries have also seen tensions due to a controversy surrounding a cross-border oil pipeline, with the south halting oil production last month, after Juba accused Khartoum of stealing $815m worth of crude oil, Martin said that this had not yet been tabled.
She said the negotiators were attempting to create a better atmosphere between the neighbouring countries first before addressing the issue of oil.
South Sudan took three quarters of Sudan’s oil when it gained independence, but all pipeline and export facilities are controlled by the north.
Plan for peace
Friday’s agreement will establish a monitoring mechanism where either side can lodge complaints if border disputes erupt.
“In the event that there are complaints or allegations from either side … then they should be appointed to the joint mechanism,” Mbeki said.
“In the event that there are complaints or allegations from either side … then they should be appointed to the joint mechanism”
– Thabo Mbeki, chief negotiator
Mbeki urged both sides to ensure Friday’s peace deal is adhered to.
“We are very serious … it is the responsibility of both sides to act now,” he said.
UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon warned on Friday that tensions between the two nations could escalate if outstanding issues were not resolved.
“The moment has come for the leaders of both countries to make the necessary compromises … that will guarantee a peaceful and prosperous future,” he said in a statement.
Talks are expected to continue in the Ethiopian capital on Saturday, with a focus on the outstanding oil revenue and pipeline fee issues.