Sudan and South Sudan meet for crisis talks after fighting

AFP , Monday 2 Apr 2012

Senior officials from Sudan and South Sudan met in Ethiopia for the first direct negotiation since heavy fighting between their armies broke out last week

Senior officials from Sudan and South Sudan met Monday for the first face-to-face talks since heavy fighting between their armies broke out last week in disputed oil-rich border regions.

Bloody clashes including airstrikes, tanks and heavy artillery -- the worst violence since South Sudan's independence in July -- had raised international concerns the former civil war foes could return to all out war.

Sudanese Defence Minister Abdel-Rahim Mohamed Hussein, who met his southern counterpart John Kong Nyuon with their respective delegations, said he hoped the meeting would result in a signed deal.

"We agreed that this tension between the two countries should be released," Hussein said.

Southern Information Minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin said talks were ongoing, but added claims that Khartoum was "still bombing" border areas in the South.

"South Sudan is determined to ensure a return to war is avoided and to peacefully resolve the outstanding issues," he told reporters in Nairobi.

"It is time to leave the path of confrontation and war, and walk the path of peace in the interest of the people of Sudan and South Sudan."

Delegations from both countries were in the Ethiopian capital for crisis talks that were stalled after both sides accused each other of initiating the clashes.

Sudan's army late Sunday claimed South Sudanese forces launched another push into the Heglig oil region -- a disputed area controlled by Khartoum -- accusations denied by Juba.

Tensions remain high between their armies along the border, and both sides have traded furious rhetoric.

"It is very clear that the aggression is from their side," said Badreldin Abdalla, a senior official at Sudan's foreign ministry attending the talks, adding that Khartoum was "committed to peace."

"Sudan's government is not for war, it is not for conflict again," Abdalla said ahead of Monday's meeting.

Juba's chief negotiator Pagan Amum on Sunday accused the north of "waging war" and said Khartoum was planning fresh attacks.

Short link: