Soldiers from South Sudan's army, or the SPLA, drive in a truck on the frontline in Panakuach in Unity state.

Addis Ababa - Sudan and South Sudan pledged their commitment to cease hostilities along the disputed oil-rich border on Saturday but stopped short of actually signing an agreement, officials said.

The agreement came as the latest round of talks closed in the Ethiopian capital, ahead of celebrations Monday to mark one year of independence for South Sudan.

“We have agreed... to the unequivocal commitment of the two parties to never solicit force to settle their disputes and differences and to commit themselves to the cessation of hostilities,” Sudan's defence minister Abdelrahim Mohamed Hussein told reporters.

The two sides also agreed “to strengthen, enhance the political will, which is happily once more existing between the two countries,” Hussein said.

The countries resumed African Union-led peace talks here Thursday after negotiations adjourned last week without a deal.

The talks are expected to continue on July 11, following the independence celebrations.

There was no agreement on a demilitarized buffer zone along the border at the latest round of talks, but Hussein insisted the “normalization” of relations was the current priority for both countries.

“The demarcation of the (safe border zone) is not in itself an objective, what we are trying to do to is normalize relations between the two countries,” he said.

South Sudan's chief negotiator, Pagan Amum, said he was pleased with the “new spirit” at the latest round of talks and said his country was committed to improving relations with Khartoum.

“We are going to discuss all issues, security, economic, that includes trade and oil... and we have committed ourselves to resolving the border dispute,” Amum said.

Amum said the disputed Abyei region would also be addressed and that both sides agreed on creating an open border to promote trade between the two nations.

Chief mediator Thabo Mbeki, former president of South Africa, heralded the two sides for their newly renewed commitment to peace.

“We are convinced ... the approach that the parties have taken indeed creates the basis for a speedier resolution of these outstanding questions,” he said. - Sapa-AFP