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May 26, 2017

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Sudan lawmakers OK S. Sudan security, oil deals

KHARTOUM--Sudan'sarliament on Wednesday almost unanimously approved deals with South Sudan on oil and security that the two countries' presidents have hailed as ending their conflict.

"After discussion by the MPs, the general feeling of the assembly is to agree to those deals," parliament speaker Ahmed Ibrahim al-Tahir told deputies just before the vote.

Roughly half of the chamber's 350 MPs were present for the ballot, and only two of them voted against the agreements.

The late-September deals, signed by Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir and his South Sudanese counterpart Salva Kiir, came after the neighbors fought along their undemarcated frontier in March and April, sparking fears of wider war.

A U.N. Security Council resolution ordered a ceasefire and the settlement of crucial unresolved issues, under African Union mediation.

"We received a positive reaction from the international community expecting our signature on the agreement, and they believe we are a responsible state that is looking out for the benefits of its people," Foreign Minister Ali Karti told legislators.

He attacked Sudanese press criticism of the deals.

The South's government halted oil production in January after accusing Khartoum of theft in a long-running dispute over how much the impoverished government in Juba should pay for sending its oil through northern infrastructure for export.

The deals signed last month included agreements to ensure the resumption of oil exports, as well as progress on a financial package of about US$3 billion that South Sudan offered Khartoum.

The package is compensation for the economically damaging loss of most of Sudan's oilfields when South Sudan separated in July last year.

They also reached a key agreement on a demilitarized border buffer zone, where troops must withdraw 10 kilometers (six miles) from the de facto line of control along the undemarcated frontier.

The zone aims to cut support for rebels in the northern states of South Kordofan and Blue Nile. Sudan says these rebels are backed by South Sudan.

A 22-year north-south civil war led to a 2005 peace deal and South Sudan's independence, but tensions over oil and other issues lingered.

At the signing in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Kiir said the overall agreement with Sudan "brings to an end the long conflict between our two countries."

Bashir said he would "seize the historic opportunity and journey towards building peace."

However, the leaders failed to strike a deal on the flashpoint region of Abyei as well as other contested border areas. Outstanding issues are to be addressed in future rounds of talks, officials have said.

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