ADDIS ABABA, Sept. 24 (Xinhua) -- Sudanese President Omar Hassan Al Bashir and his South Sudan counterpart Salva Kiir Mayardit met here Sunday after months-old tensions, and they are expected to reach agreement to solve the outstanding disputes between the two countries.
The two leaders met for nearly two hours to start their face-to-face talks to avoid any renewed conflicts between the two civil war foes after rival delegations held consultations and narrowed negotiating gaps earlier.
They were reportedly chatting with each other amicably after their meeting.
Sudan and South Sudan have been negotiating in Addis Ababa under the African Union High-level Implementation Panel on Sudan (AUHIP) mediation over outstanding issues including oil sharing, security and border demarcation.
Ethiopian State Minister of Foreign Affairs Berhane Gebrekirstos said that Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn had consultations with both leaders ahead of their talks.
About the prospects of the summit, the minister said, "Well, the points are on the table, and I think they are going to deal with the substantive issue...and we are quite hopeful and optimistic that things will move forward."0 Sudan's official SUNA news agency reported on Sunday that Bashir has left for Addis Ababa for a summit with Mayardit in response to an invitation by the AUHIP "to reach a final agreement on outstanding issues between the two countries."
Sunday's summit is viewed as a means for the two sides to achieve a breakthrough to avoid international sanctions, one day after the deadline set by the UN Security Council for the two countries to reach an agreement.
In its Resolution 2046, the UN Security Council warned it would impose sanctions on both countries if they failed to resolve their outstanding issues and sign an agreement by Saturday.
The deadline was set after large-scale border clashes occurred in March, when South Sudan troops and tanks briefly seized an oil field from Sudan's control, and Sudan counterattacked with bombing raids.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon issued a statement on Friday, saying he was "encouraged by the significant narrowing of differences between the governments of Sudan and South Sudan on a range of outstanding issues" and urging the two countries to "conclude a comprehensive deal" on a range of bilateral issues when their leaders met in Ethiopia.
The African Union (AU) on Saturday said in a statement that it looks forward to the summit and encourage the presidents to take advantage of this unique opportunity to reach agreement on the outstanding issues in the post-secession relations between their two countries.
It has said that the crisis affecting Sudan and South Sudan is an African crisis, and as such, Africa has a duty to assist the two countries to achieve a lasting solution.
South Sudan was officially declared independent on July 9, 2011 following a referendum on self-determination for southern Sudan in which a majority of about 99 percent of the southerners voted for independence.
The key outstanding issues between Sudan and South Sudan include the ownership of some regions along their border, in particular the Abyei region, and the establishment of a demilitarized border zone.
The two leaders are expected to finish their talks on Monday with a deal.