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Bashir to Visit South Sudan in 1st Trip since Secession

Source: Reuters 10/28/2012, Location: Africa

Sudan's President Omar Hassan al-Bashir will visit South Sudan soon, his first trip since the south gained independence last year, to forge a new start in relations, Sudan's Foreign Minister Ali Ahmed Karti told the state news agency. Last month, Sudan and South Sudan agreed to end hostilities, restart southern oil exports through the north and revive cross-border trade, after both came close to war in April. The foreign minister gave no date but officials said the visit could be in early November.

The African neighbours have yet to sort out ownership of several disputed areas along the unmarked border but tensions have ebbed in the past few months. Karti said Bashir's visit will be a "new start in relations between Sudan and South Sudan", SUNA said. Bashir was last in Juba at South Sudan's independence ceremony on July 9, 2011. Both leaders had planned to hold a summit in Juba in April but Sudan cancelled it after fighting broke out at the border and South Sudan briefly seized an oil field key to Sudan's economy.

The foreign minister said a joint political and security committee would meet in Juba at the beginning of November. Bashir and his southern counterpart Salva Kiir are expected to attend the meeting. South Sudan became independent after a referendum agreed under a 2005 deal that ended decades of civil war between the mainly Muslim north and the south where most follow Christian and African beliefs. The African Union is trying to mediate a lasting peace between the two countries. It last week gave them six more weeks to reach an agreement on the disputed border region of Abyei which is highly symbolic to both sides.

South Sudan shut off oil production, the lifeline of both economies, in January after failing to agree with Sudan on export fees. Exports are expected to flow again at the end of December or the start of January after last month's deal.

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