North, south Sudan agree to establish demilitarized zone

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North and south Sudan have agreed to establish a common demilitarized border zone, the African Union (AU) announced Tuesday.

"The Sudanese parties, the National Congress Party (NCP) and Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) signed a joint Position Paper on border security," said the AU in a statement, a copy of which was obtained by Xinhua.

"The agreement establishes a common border zone between north and south Sudan, which is to be demilitarized and jointly monitored and patrolled," said the statement.

The statement said the agreement detailed the establishment of a joint political and security mechanism for north and south Sudan, headed by the two ministers of defense and including the chiefs of staff of the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA), the heads of intelligence and police, and other senior officials, to ensure that the two parties can maintain stable and secure relations.

The AU, in its statement, stressed that the agreement paved the way for further negotiations on key security issues between the parties, which are to be convened by the AU panel within the week.

The agreement was signed during a meeting held in Addis Ababa, under the facilitation of the AU High-level Implementation Panel for Sudan.

On May 21, the SAF took control of the country's disputed oil- rich area of Abyei in response to an attack by the SPLA against a SAF convoy, which resulted in the death of 22 soldiers.

The SAF later announced that it had appointed a military governor for Abyei and urged the citizens to return to their homes in the town.

The Abyei events prompted concerns over possibility that north and south Sudan would return to war again just a little more than one month before south Sudan would officially be declared independent on July 9.

A referendum on Abyei was supposed to be held on Jan. 9, 2011, coincident with the south Sudan referendum, but it was postponed in the wake of a difference between the NCP and SPLM over who has the right to vote in the referendum.

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