Sudan, South Sudan Talks on Hold Amid Tensions

Posted April 3rd, 2012 at 3:55 am (UTC-5)
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U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called on the leaders of Sudan and South Sudan to meet “as soon as possible” to resolve tensions between the two countries, but a meeting scheduled for Tuesday has been canceled.

The two presidents had been due to hold talks in South Sudan's capital, Juba. A wave of violent military clashes broke out last week with both sides blaming the other for starting the fighting.

Eric Reeves, a U.S.-based Sudan and South Sudan researcher told VOA that jeopardizing the meeting may be what some senior military officials in Sudan were aiming for.

“Right now the best guess is that those who made that agreement and those who did the preliminary work that made a summit in Juba seem plausible, were undermined by military officials who decided that they didn't want rapprochement, what they wanted was to continue to create a highly volatile militarily unstable situation along the north-south border.”

He said he thinks the two countries are “very close” to war.

U.S. President Barack Obama urged South Sudan Monday to avoid military confrontation with Sudan.

The White House says Mr. Obama spoke to South Sudan's president, Salva Kiir, asking him to ensure South Sudan's military is neither involved in nor supports fighting along the border. President Obama also emphasized the need for the two sides to reach an agreement in their ongoing oil dispute.

Reeves said Mr. Obama's call was not directed at the right party.

“I think the urging of restraint needs to be directed at Khartoum. Public statements such as that by President Obama only make it more difficult to discourage Khartoum from believing that they have something to gain militarily. The south has nothing to gain militarily. They are in a defensive posture.”

He also called for the United Nations to publish information gathered by its advisers and observers to help clarify the situation on the ground.

Sudan has accused South Sudan of supporting rebels in Southern Kordofan and the state of Blue Nile, charges South Sudan has denied. The south accuses the north of conducting airstrikes in its territory.

In January, South Sudan shut down oil production that is the lifeline of both country's economies. The south accuses the north of charging excessive fees to use northern pipelines.