ADDIS ABABA/KHARTOUM - Sudan and South Sudan on Monday began their first direct high-level talks on border security since a series of frontier clashes threatened to drag the former civil war foes back into a full-scale conflict.
Perched atop some of Africa's most significant crude reserves, the two countries have been mired in disputes over oil revenues and demarcation of their new border since South Sudan gained independence in July.
The African Union-mediated talks were cut short after South Sudan seized the Heglig oil field in a disputed border region in April, only to withdraw later under heavy international pressure.
The two returned to peace talks last week, after the United Nations threatened to impose sanctions if they failed to stop fighting and hammer out a deal.
"We are here for the joint political and security mechanism meetings - the body... that is primarily drawing up the safe and demilitarized border zone," South Sudan's Foreign Minister Nhial Deng told Reuters ahead of the talks in the Ethiopian capital.
"We are always optimistic; you have to be, because it is optimism that fuels hope and hope helps you achieve success."