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ADDIS ABABA - 11 Nov 2012

AU says defense ministers ‘could not agree’

The chairperson of the African Union stated Saturday that the joint defense committee ‘could not agree’ on some security matters discussed last week in Juba. The talks chaired by the defense ministers of Sudan and South Sudan were portrayed as progress by media of both countries.

Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, the AU commission chairperson, was previously foreign minister to former South African president Thabo Mbeki, who now leads the mediation between Sudan and South Sudan.

In a press release on Saturday, Zuma stated that she “welcomes the convening of the second ordinary meeting of the Joint Political and Security Mechanism (JPSM), which was held in Juba, from 6 to 7 November 2012.” She called the JPSM committee “a critical tool” in efforts to promote neighborly relations between the two Sudans.

Zuma added, however, that “the meeting could not reach agreement on practical steps to implement security arrangements contained in the Agreements signed at the Summit of the President of the Republic of Sudan and the President of the Republic of South Sudan, President Omar Hassan al Bashir and President Salva Kiir Mayardit, in Addis Ababa, on 27 September 2012.”

The chairperson did not cite specifically which security matters were in dispute. Sudan’s defense minister, Abdel Rahim Mohamed Hussein, at a press conference last Wednesday likewise declined to answer this question, instead affirming only that there was nothing that would not be resolved.

But Zuma’s reference to a particular article of the AU Security Council communiqué of last October suggests a concern about SPLM-North. She noted that the council called on Sudan and SPLM-North to convene direct negotiations by 10 November, a deadline that was missed due to ‘unforeseen logistical reasons.’

“Consultations are ongoing for direct talks to be convened as early as possible. The AUHIP [Mbeki’s mediation team], through the AU Commission, will soon announce a date for direct talks,” she added.

Photo by Juba Post: Abdelrahim Hussein, Sudan’s defense minister (left) and Alison Manani Magaya, South Sudan’s interior minister (right) at Juba Airport on 5 November 2012.

Related: Three steps forward in defense talks (Juba Post, 8 November 2012)