ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia, Sept. 27 (UPI) -- Sudan and South Sudan signed agreements Thursday on border and citizenship issues but failed to find common ground on the contested region of Abyei.
After five days of meetings in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Sudan President Omar al-Bashir and South Sudan President Salva Kiir officially signed the pacts before a cheering crowd, agreeing to establish a demilitarized zone along their 1,100-mile common border, the Sudan Tribune reported.
Troops from both countries will be withdrawn from a 6-mile buffer zone that includes the "Mile 14" area, a region occupying 14 miles between Western Bahr El-Ghazal State in South Sudan and East Darfur State in Darfur.
"Mile 14" will be administered by a joint arrangement between the Al-Riziygat Arab tribe of Darfur and Dinka Mulawl of South Sudan until the area's final status can be determined.
President Obama praised the pact as "another important step on the path away from conflict" in a statement Thursday, and commended the efforts of the African Union High-Level Implementation Panel, led by former South African prime minster Thabo Mbeki, in bringing the agreement to fruition.
Kiir and Bashir failed to resolve issues surrounding the disputed region of Abyei. Sudan rejected "in its entirety" an African Union proposal to hold a referendum by October 2013 to determine to which country the region will be affiliated.
At the center of the disagreement is how to define the "permanent" residents of the region allowed to vote in the referendum. Sudan says members of the nomadic al Messriyah should be able to vote, although they live in the region only a few months each year. Members of the Dinka Ngok tribe of South Sudan live there year-round.