JUBA (Reuters) – Sudan’s new Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok flew to South Sudan on Thursday on a two-day visit to cement a new plan for peace talks with many of the rebel groups fighting against the government, brokered the previous day by Sudan’s southern neighbour.
Hamdok, a former U.N. diplomat, took office three weeks ago under an agreement between the military and civilian parties in Sudan after months of demonstrations against generals who seized power after toppling long-serving autocrat Omar al-Bashir.
The ruling Sovereign Council has set an aim to bring a swift end to insurgent conflicts that have plagued Sudan for years and made it a pariah under Bashir, wanted by the International Criminal Court for genocide in the Darfur region. It has installed a government of technocrats led by Hamdok.
On Wednesday, representatives of the Sovereign Council signed a deal with rebels outlining a roadmap for peace talks at a meeting hosted in the South Sudan capital Juba.
The deal was signed by the SRF, an umbrella group that includes three of the main rebel factions, among them rebels in Darfur, as well as by Abdelaziz Al-Hilu, leader of a wing of the SPLM-N, the main group fighting against the government in the southern provinces of Blue Nile and South Kordofan.
“He (Hamdok) is coming to cement the agreement as far as ending the war in Sudan,” said James Wani Igga, South Sudan’s vice president.
Hamdok told reporters on his arrival that he would also hold talks with South Sudanese officials on trade, border disputes and the free movement of people between both countries.
“I am looking for a very strategic, very distinguished relationship between our two nations,” he said.
Good relations between the two nations are vital for the flow of oil from fields in South Sudan, which depend on pipelines that go through Sudan.
South Sudan obtained independence from Sudan in 2011 after decades of civil war. The two countries have since frequently accused each other of harbouring or aiding rebels fighting against their governments.
(Reporting by Denis Dumo; Writing by Duncan Miriri; Editing by Peter Graff)