Juba blames Khartoum for deadlock: Deals must be implemented!
ADDIS ABABA - South Sudan's President Salva Kiir called for the immediate implementation of a series of agreements signed with rival Sudan, and criticised Khartoum for stalling talks.
"If there is to be progress, the cycle of negotiation cannot continue indefinitely. We must shift from rhetoric to action," Kiir said at a high level security meeting in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.
Kiir and his Northern counterpart Omar al-Bashir met earlier Friday for face-to-face talks in the latest push to implement stalled economic, oil and security deals signed in September after a bloody border conflict broke out last year.
Other key issues left unresolved after South Sudan claimed independence in July 2011 include the contested flashpoint Abyei region.
The AU mediating panel, AUHIP, has put forward a resolution on Abyei, which includes a referendum giving members of the Dinka -- a dominant South Sudanese tribe who live in the Abyei area -- the right to vote along with Sudanese.
Kiir urged Sudan to adopt the AU proposal on Abyei in order to settle the long-standing dispute.
"We have exhausted the issue of Abyei for seven years. This issue does not require further negotiation but rather swift adoption and implementation of the AUHIP proposal," he said.
Sudan and South Sudan have also been at loggerheads over the demarcation of the oil-rich border and pipeline costs to export the South's crude via the north, a dispute that not only led to Juba halting oil production last January, but also weeks of border conflict.
Asked whether progress had been made at his meeting with Bashir, Kiir simply said: "We are not finished yet."
AU peace and security commissioner Ramtane Lamamra said the AU was concerned that "significant differences remain" between the two rivals. He encouraged Sudan and South Sudan to push for progress on the stalled deals.
The security meeting took place ahead of Sunday's AU summit, where the crisis in Mali is expected to top the agenda.
The AU sought to bolster the strength of the African-led force in Mali. It gave member states one week to commit troops to the mission.
"We definitely know, based on the first assumptions... that the force size will have to be significantly augmented," Lamamra told reporters late Friday.
He also said the AU would seek urgent "temporary" logistical support from the UN to offer transport, medicine and field hospitals.
But political solutions to the crisis should not be ignored, he added.
"During and after the use of legitimate military intervention, there is a need to talk about politics, there is a need to lay the groundwork for a political settlement," he said.
France swept to the aid of the weakened Malian army on January 11 as Islamist rebels controlling large swathes of the country's north pushed south towards the capital Bamako.
The rebels swept through northern Mali - taking over the key towns Gao, Timbuktu and Kidal -- following a coup last year.
Mali's Foreign Minister Tieman Coulibaly agreed that a rapid mobilization of resources was needed.
"Everyone has seen that there may have been an underestimation of the enemy and everyone saw that the ultimate goal of these terrorists was to expand their criminal enterprise within Mali and eventually to other countries," he told reporters.
The West African bloc ECOWAS has set out plans to deploy 3,300 troops to help Mali retake the occupied north, but the deployment has been delayed by financing concerns.
An additional 2,000 soldiers from Chad, not a member of ECOWAS, are also to be deployed.
The French-led offensive entered its third week Friday with a strong push into the vast semi-arid zone, as aid agencies expressed concern over the food crisis in the region.
African leaders are set to meet Tuesday for a donors conference to drum up further funds for operations in Mali. The meeting will include representatives from the European Union and the UN Security Council.