South Sudan: Next Days ‘Crucial’ to Avoid War with Sudan

Posted April 24th, 2012 at 4:50 pm (UTC-5)
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South Sudan says the next few days will be “crucial” to avoid an all-out war with its northern neighbor, Sudan.

During a visit Tuesday to China for talks with Chinese President Hu Jintao, South Sudanese President Salva Kiir said Sudan's bombings of southern territory — after South Sudanese troops withdrew from an oil town at the center of recent clashes — amount to a declaration of war against his country.

“It comes at a very critical moment for the Republic of South Sudan because our neighbor, Khartoum, has declared war against the Republic of South Sudan. I have undertaken this visit because of the relationship that I value with China. China is one of our economic and strategic partners.”

The Chinese leader called for restraint from the two Sudans. Chinese state television later reported that Mr. Hu expressed hope that both Sudans will cease conflicts along their border and settle their issues through peaceful negotiations.

South Sudan's deputy defense minister, Majak D'Agoot, spoke to VOA Tuesday:

“What happens in the next few days is very crucial on whether the two countries can avert the possibility of an outbreak of a full-blown conflict, or if they actually lead themselves headlong into a situation of all-out war.”

The White House Tuesday condemned Sudan's military incursions into South Sudan. White House spokesman Jay Carney said the United States calls on both governments to agree to an immediate cease-fire and recommit to negotiations.

South Sudan's military has been sending reinforcements to the border with Sudan. Military officials said they were preparing defensive positions to respond to any further provocation from Khartoum.

Sudan and South Sudan have been on the edge of full-scale war after the SPLA withdrew from the oil town of Heglig, which they occupied for 10 days earlier this month.

Juba claims they left the area in response to international pressure, while Khartoum claims it retook control by force.

Sudan's president, Omar al-Bashir, visited Heglig Monday to demonstrate that the territory was under his forces' control.

Sudan and South Sudan previously fought a 21-year civil war that killed more than 2 million people. The war ended with a 2005 peace agreement that included an independence referendum for the south.