March 27, 2012
March 27, 2012
Sudan on Tuesday accused South Sudan of hatred and deceit and said it had suspended a proposed April 3 summit meeting between President Omar al-Bashir and his southern counterpart and U.N. chief Ban Ki-Moon appealed for calm.
Comments by the South’s leader, Salva Kiir, that his military forces had taken the northern oil center of Heglig “reflected extreme hatred to Sudan and its people and the armed forces,” the official SUNA news agency said, citing Information Minister Abdullah Ali Massar.
The South had engaged in “deceptive and misleading acts” when it signed accords with Khartoum at African Union-led talks in Ethiopia, and when it sent a delegation to Khartoum last week to invite Bashir to the summit, said Massar, according to AFP.
Ban called on the two countries to end the clashes and respect the agreements on border security they had already reached, his spokesman Martin Nesirky said.
The two sides should “utilize to the fullest extent existing political and security mechanisms to peacefully address their differences,” added the spokesman.
The proposed talks between Bashir and Kiir had been aimed at easing tensions that pushed the two countries to the brink of war as recently as early March.
But fresh clashes erupted Monday along the disputed border.
Kiir warned of the threat of war after what he said had been Sudanese ground and air attacks on multiple positions in South Sudan’s oil-rich border regions.
“This morning the (Sudanese) air force came and bombed… areas in Unity state.”
Their troops had fought back and taken Heglig, he added.
“After this intensive bombardment our forces…. were attacked by SAF (Sudan Armed Forces) and militia,” he added, speaking at the opening of a ruling party meeting in the southern capital Juba.
“It is a war that has been imposed on us again, but it is they (Khartoum) who are looking for it,” said Kiir, adding that he did not want the conflict to resume.
Sudanese army spokesman Sawarmi Khaled Saad initially said “limited clashes” had occurred between his forces and those of South Sudan along the border.
But later Monday Sudan’s military said a large contingent of South Sudanese troops had crossed several kilometers (miles) over the frontier, but that Sudanese soldiers had “defeated them and killed a number of their troops.”
The Sudanese military said southern troops had sought a meeting with a Sudanese commander Monday morning over alleged border violations by Khartoum’s troops, SUNA reported.
That afternoon, southern troops had moved over the frontier in force, it said.
The SAF spokesman accused rebels of the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) from Sudan’s western Darfur region of having “exploited this clash” to target Sudanese troops in the Heglig area. They had been repulsed, he added.
The rebel group said that while it had some fighters in western South Kordofan, they had not clashed with Sudanese troops on Monday.
Both countries claim parts of the oil-rich territory of Heglig.
Earlier Monday SUNA reported that Bashir had issued a decree approving training camps for fresh recruits to the People’s Defense Force (PDF) militia.
The countries have been at loggerheads over a series of sensitive issues since South Sudan declared independence from Sudan in July, taking with it most of the country’s known oil reserves, according to Reuters.
The neighbors have yet to agree on the position of their 1,800-km (1,120-mile) shared border or how much the landlocked south should pay to export oil — the lifeblood of both economies — through Sudan.
South Sudan secured its independence in a referendum promised in a 2005 peace deal that ended decades of civil war with the north.
Each country has regularly accused the other of supporting rebels on either side of the border but direct confrontations are rare.
Sudan’s army and SPLM-North rebels have been fighting in South Kordofan since June. Clashes spread in September to Sudan’s Blue Nile state which also borders South Sudan.
Both South Kordofan and Blue Nile are home to large communities who sided with the south during the civil war but were left on the Sudan side of the border after the secession. Khartoum says the SPLM-North is supported by South Sudan, an accusation dismissed by the southern government.
South Sudan shut down its oil production in January to protest against Khartoum’s seizure of some crude. Sudan said it took the oil to make up for what it called unpaid transit fees.
By Al Arabiya with Agencies