As Sudanese President Omar Bashir Thursday threatened to intensify attacks and overthrow the government of South Sudan, UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon renewed his calls for both countries to return to the negotiation table and end provocative actions and statements.
Fighting came to a head last week when South Sudan’s military took control of the town of Higlig, an important oil producing region in the North, located near the disputed Abyei region which straddles the border.
“Again, this is not the time for war. This is a time for leadership, for engagement, for negotiation – in the name of humanity, and in the interest of the people of both countries and the region. We shall continue our efforts and stand ready to help both parties.” Ban said Thursday, calling on countries who have influence over both governments to increase diplomatic pressure.
Diplomats say the upsurge in fighting has been brought on by Sudan and South Sudan’s failure to resolve important aspects of the Comprehensive Peace Plan such as an oil sharing agreement, the issue of citizenship and the status of disputed border territories like Abyei, which was supposed to have been resolved before South Sudan’s independence last summer.
Last week, the UN Security Council adopted a presidential statement calling for an immediate end to the fighting between Khartoum and Juba, the withdrawal of South Sudanese troops from Higlig and for Sudan to stop its aerial bombardment campaign against South Sudan.
The Security Council also called on both parties to stop supporting proxies in each others countries and warned that it would consider imposing sanctions on Juba and Khartoum if they failed to end the fighting.
On Thursday, UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon again urged both sides to return to the negotiation table and reiterated the Security Council’s call that South Sudan immediately withdraw its forces from Heglig.
“This is an infringement on the sovereignty of Sudan and a clearly illegal act.” he told reporters.
South Sudan’s Ambassador to the UN Agnes Oswaha defended the occupation of Heglig earlier this week, arguing that it had been necessary because Sudanese armed forces had used the area as an operational base to stage attacks against the South.
Oswaha also argued that Juba had a legitimate claim to Higlig, as it lies within South Sudan’s 1956 border.
The UN Secretary General also criticized North Sudan’s military operations against the South, and called on Khartoum to “immediately stop shelling and bombing South Sudanese territory and withdraw its forces from disputed territories, in particular Abyei.”
Sudan has on several occasions denied it was conducting aerial bombardments and claimed such reports were meant to confuse public opinion and influence the international community.
Sudan’s Ambassador to the UN Daffa-Alla Elhag Ali Osman warned last week that South Sudan’s occupation of Higlig would not last for long and that Khartoum would “strike deep into South Sudan”.
Khartoum also claims that South Sudan has been trying to overthrow Omar Bashir’s government by supporting anti-government rebel groups like the Justice and Equality Movement.
South Sudanese Ambassador Oswaha Tuesday denied charges Juba was supporting the JEM, and said her government has a policy of non-interference in Sudan’s internal matters.
But US Ambassador Susan Rice says both sides have taken actions to test, provoke and undermine the other, including support of proxies.
“Reality is that both sides have over time provided support to proxies in each others territories, there is little doubt about that it has continued in both directions and it needs to end.” Rice said on Tuesday.
UN and African Union envoys briefed the Security Council earlier this week on the ongoing violence, saying that both sides were locked into the “logic” of war and that “hard liners are winning the day in both Juba and Khartoum”.
“The perception in Khartoum that the South’s objectives are regime change… the North had said…their objective is now also regime change. I think frankly one would hope that this is rhetoric and not the objective of either side.” she said Tuesday.