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Friday 13 April 2012

UN Calls for End of Sudanese Violence

The Council also called for both sides to pull back 10km from their shared border to establish a demilitarised zone, demanding an end to repeated incidents of cross-border violence between the two, as well as end of support by both sides to proxies in the other country.

By Staff Writer

NEW YORK---The United Nations Security Council has called for an immediate cessation of fighting between the Sudan and South Sudan, urging leaders of the two states to hold talks over the conflict that has threatened a return to full-scale war.

In a statement released on Thursday, the 15-member Council demanded for a “complete, immediate and unconditional end to all fighting” calling for an end to aerial bombardment by the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF), and withdrawal of South Sudan troops from the contested Heglig oilfields.

"The recent violence threatens to return both countries to full-scale war and the period of tragic loss of life and suffering, destroyed infrastructure, and economic devastation, which they have worked so hard and long to overcome," read the Security Council statement.

The Council also called for both sides to pull back 10km from their shared border to establish a demilitarised zone, demanding an end to repeated incidents of cross-border violence between the two, as well as end of support by both sides to proxies in the other country.

The recent spate of fighting broke out late last month in several disputed border regions, with both sides accusing each other of infusing the fighting inside the other side’s territory.

UN envoys from both nations have welcomed the Security Council statement, but expressed sentiments from their governments’ hard stances that seem not to be relenting.

Sudan’s ambassador to the UN Daffa-Alla Elhag Ali Osman though he welcomed the UN statement, said the northern forces will chase out the southern troops and hit deep inside South Sudan if they did not comply with Khartoum, where he dismissed the Council’s demands on Sudan’s aerial bombings, terming reports of such attacks as fictional.

South Sudan’s UN envoy Agnes Oswaha has said outstanding issues needed to be solved immediately, adding that the southern forces will withdraw from Heglig if an international force was deployed to the area.

Heglig, which lies along the disputed border, has been under the Juba forces in the past two weeks of clashes. The South Sudan Army say it seized Heglig, an oil-rich region that accounts for about Sudan’s oil production,  this week to elude further attacks by the north in the south.

Juba has set conditions of pulling out of Heglig demanding an immediate end of air assault inside its territory by Khartoum, and also the withdrawal of northern forces from Abyei, another disputed area.

"South Sudan would withdraw from Heglig if a guarantee can be provided that it will not be used for another attack against our territory," Barnaba Marial Benjamin, South’s information minister, said. "Firstly, all ground and air assaults by Sudan must end immediately."

South Sudan troops captured Heglig following fierce battles with their northern counterparts on Wednesday, advancing further past the town as claimed by the southern authorities.

Sudanese warplanes are reported to have carried out air raid on the third day of fighting, Thursday, targeting a strategic area close to a UN compound, 60km from the frontier in the border state of Unity, where one soldier was killed and two others injured.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon has expressed grave concerns about the alarming escalation in the fighting, calling on both sides to cease hostilities immediately and withdraw from the other side’s territory and hold a presidential summit to negotiate a solution.

While speaking to parliament on Thursday, South Sudanese President Salva Kiir said he had told the UN chief, “I'm not under your command," after he had ordered him to pull out his forces out of Heglig, saying although he did not want war with Khartoum, his country had to act in self defence.

"I always say we will not take the people of South Sudan back to war, but if we are being aggressed like this we will have to defend ourselves," said Kiir.

Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir has accused the south of choosing the path of war under foreign influence which he termed as not being in the interest of either of the two states.

“Our brothers in South Sudan have chosen the path of war, implementing plans dictated by foreign parties who supported them during the civil war," Bashir told reporters.

Since the South’s independence last year, conflict has been simmering between the two states following unsettled matters over a possible border region and sharing of oil resources. The south took most of the oilfields after the July secession, but depends on the northern pipeline for its exports which accounts for 98 per cent of its revenue.

In January South Sudan shut down its oil fields following row over oil transit fees accusing the north of stealing its oil and over excessive transit charges.

With the recent collapse of the African Union-backed talks, the Sudanese long-standing feud seems to be taking shape again, threatening for another war following of decades of north-south conflict that concluded with the 2005 peace deal, paving way for south’s secession under a referendum.

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