Obama Makes Appeal for Peace to People in South Sudan, Sudan

Posted April 21st, 2012 at 3:35 am (UTC-5)
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U.S. President Barack Obama made a videotaped message to the people of Sudan and South Sudan that aired Saturday, saying “conflict is not inevitable,” and their leaders have a chance not to drag them into a war.

In a YouTube Internet message, Mr. Obama called on both countries to end military actions against the other. He said the presidents of both countries must have the courage to resume talks toward a peaceful resolution to their dispute.

President Obama's message follows a day of celebration in Sudan, where citizens and leaders cheered the government's claim that the military has retaken control of oil fields in Heglig from South Sudan.

Sudan President Omar al-Bashir led a boisterous victory rally Friday in Khartoum, while jubilant troops celebrated in the disputed area of Heglig. The celebration contradicts a claim by South Sudan's ambassador to the United Nations, Agnes Oswaha.

She told reporters at U.N. headquarters in New York Friday that southern forces were still in complete control of Heglig. She did confirm that all southern forces would be out of Heglig within three days.

South Sudan seized the Heglig oil fields on April 10, sparking fears of all-out war between the two countries. In a speech Wednesday, Sudanese President Bashir threatened to crush South Sudan's government.

The south's information minister said Friday that Juba still considers Heglig to be part of its territory and wants the status of that area and other contested regions to be determined by international arbitration.

The two Sudans have not been able to resolve disputes over borders, oil and citizenship stemming from the south's independence last July.

Disputes include the future of the oil-producing Abyei region and the sharing of oil revenue. The south took over three-fourths of Sudan's oil fields when it separated, but uses northern pipelines for export. The countries have been fighting along their disputed border.

Before their separation, north and south Sudan fought a 21-year civil war that eventually led to southern autonomy and independence.