Sudan and South Sudan 'agree oil deal'
Sudan and South Sudan have reached a deal on border security and oil production that will allow oil exports from South Sudan through Sudan to resume, say spokesmen for both sides.
The leaders of the two neighbouring countries made the partial breakthrough after four days of talks in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.
But a number of key issues remain unresolved, including disputed regions.
The two countries came to the brink of war earlier this year.
After fighting over oil facilities and disputed land broke out, the United Nations threatened both sides with sanctions if they did not reach a comprehensive agreement.
African Union mediators have yet to confirm that an agreement has been made, but President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan and President Salva Kiir of South Sudan are expected to sign a deal on Thursday.
The BBC's James Copnall in Addis Ababa says many people will be sceptical until they see a deal has actually been signed.
It had been announced that the two presidents would sign a comprehensive agreement on Wednesday morning, but this did not happen.
If this deal is signed, getting the oil flowing again would boost both economies, our correspondent says.
Few details have been released, but negotiators for both sides said that a demilitarised border buffer zone between the two countries had been agreed.
They also said that an economic agreement had been reached to allow South Sudan's stalled oil production to be restarted.
But a solution was not found to the disputed flashpoint region of Abyei, or on a series of border zones claimed by both countries.
The prospective deal therefore falls short of the comprehensive agreement called for by the UN.
When South Sudan gained independence in July 2011, it obtained two-thirds of the former country's oil while Sudan retained the processing and export facilities.
No agreement was reached on how much the South should pay Sudan in transit fees.
In January, the South shut down oil production, accusing Sudan of stealing its oil - Sudan said it was owed the money - and the two countries' economies have been seriously damaged as a result.
South Sudan, where people chiefly follow the Christian faith or traditional indigenous religions, fought for decades with mainly Muslim Sudan.
Both Sudan and the South are reliant on their oil revenues, which account for 98% of South Sudan's budget. But the two countries cannot agree how to divide the oil wealth of the former united state. Some 75% of the oil lies in the South but all the pipelines run north. It is feared that disputes over oil could lead the two neighbours to return to war.
Although they were united for many years, the two Sudans were always very different. The great divide is visible even from space, as this Nasa satellite image shows. The northern states are a blanket of desert, broken only by the fertile Nile corridor. South Sudan is covered by green swathes of grassland, swamps and tropical forest.
Sudan's arid north is mainly home to Arabic-speaking Muslims. But in South Sudan there is no dominant culture. The Dinkas and the Nuers are the largest of more than 200 ethnic groups, each with its own languages and traditional beliefs, alongside Christianity and Islam.
The health inequalities in Sudan are illustrated by infant mortality rates. In South Sudan, one in 10 children die before their first birthday. Whereas in the more developed northern states, such as Gezira and White Nile, half of those children would be expected to survive.
The gulf in water resources between north and south is stark. In Khartoum, River Nile, and Gezira states, two-thirds of people have access to piped drinking water and pit latrines. In the south, boreholes and unprotected wells are the main drinking sources. More than 80% of southerners have no toilet facilities whatsoever.
Throughout the two Sudans, access to primary school education is strongly linked to household earnings. In the poorest parts of the south, less than 1% of children finish primary school. Whereas in the wealthier north, up to 50% of children complete primary level education.
Conflict and poverty are the main causes of food insecurity in both countries. In Sudan, many of the residents of war-affected Darfur and the border states of Blue Nile and South Kordofan, depend on food aid. The UN said about 2.8m people in South Sudan would require food aid in 2013. The northern states tend to be wealthier, more urbanised and less reliant on agriculture.