South Sudan Claims Shootdown of Sudanese Warplane

Posted April 4th, 2012 at 6:50 pm (UTC-5)
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South Sudan says it has shot down a Sudanese military plane as tension between the countries continues to rise.

Pagan Amum, the south's chief negotiator at talks in Addis Ababa, told reporters that southern forces shot down a MiG-29 on Wednesday afternoon.

Amum said Sudan's defense minister ordered an aerial attack on a South Sudanese army garrison after walking out of the African Union-mediated talks.

The French news agency quotes a Sudanese army spokesman as denying that a Sudanese fighter plane was shot down.

Earlier, AU mediators made a proposal designed to ease the tension between Sudan and South Sudan.

The proposal, outlined by former South African president Thabo Mbeki, calls for a cessation of hostilities, a withdrawal of all forces from each other's territory, and a summit between the two countries' presidents.

Mbeki said South Sudan is ready to sign the document, but that Sudan's delegation is taking the document back to Khartoum for consultations.

The United States Wednesday expressed concern about ongoing hostilities on the border areas between South Sudan and Sudan. State Department spokesman Mark Toner called for restraint on all sides.

“And we call upon the parties to cease fighting and ensure the safety and security of civilians, first and foremost, and then the negotiated solution to grievances under the auspices of the African Union. So they need to get back into these negotiations.

“And I think as you saw yesterday, the White House announced that we're going to provide an additional $26 million in emergency funds to the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees that's going to help address some of the needs of these refugees, caused by the fighting.”

The AU has hosted multiple rounds of talks between Sudan and South Sudan in Ethiopia's capital, Addis Ababa.

The sides have been at sharp odds over issues stemming from the south's independence last July, including borders, the sharing of oil revenue, and the status of nationals in each other's territory.

The north has accused the south of supporting rebels in the states of Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile, while the south says the north has conducted repeated airstrikes, including some near refugee camps.