CAIRO: Egypt mediated talks in Cairo Monday between the Sudanese ruling National Congress Party (NCP) and the southern Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) to discuss issues pertaining to the January referendum regarding the possible secession of the South.
Under the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement between Khartoum and the South, the people of southern Sudan will be able to decide whether to stay as part of Sudan or become an independent state. It is widely expected that they will choose the latter.
Presidential Assistant Nafie Ali Nafie headed the NCP delegation and the SPLM was headed by its Secretary General Pagan Ammun as the four-day round of meetings began. This is the second such meeting to be hosted by Egypt.
Discussions are to revolve around the referendum and arrangements regarding such issues as border delineations in the event that the South does choose to secede.
Egypt is keen to support unity, as it sees secession as against its interests, especially regarding the Nile water rights which recently have come under scrutiny as other Nile Basin countries demand a more proportionate share.
Egypt – along with Sudan – has the lion’s share of the Nile water due to an agreement penned in 1929 while under British colonial rule. Other Nile Basin countries, having since gained independence, feel a more equitable distribution should be made, and have signed an agreement without Egypt and Sudan to that effect.
Comments by NCP member Rabie Abdelati Obeid published by Voice of America indicated that Egypt was hoping to make unity an attractive proposition to the South as a “united Sudan will guarantee the security of Egypt.”
However, the article went on to say that because of Egypt’s vested interest in the result of the referendum it could be construed as an partial mediator.
Egypt’s position was made clear by a foreign ministry statement last Tuesday after a meeting between minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit and US Envoy to Sudan Scott Gratian, which expressed Egypt’s support for unity as opposed to secession.
The statement stressed “the importance of concerted international efforts so as to help the South improve the standard of living of southern citizens to preserve peace and stability in the region and form a package of incentives for the southerners to contribute, making unity an attractive option.”
Aboul Gheit hoped that “the upcoming few months will witness more understanding between the National Congress Party and the nationalist movement [SPLM] to overcome the issues that are ambiguous in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement.”