By Tesfa-Alem Tekle
April 23, 2012 (ADDIS ABABA) – The African Union’s Peace and Security Council will hold a meeting this week with the border conflict between Sudan and South Sudan over the contested oil-rich Heglig region due to be top of the agenda.
The meeting is expected to discuss how to defuse tensions and bring the two sides to back to negotiations. The AU meeting will also focus on security situations in other African countries including Mali and Guinea-Bissau.
On the sidelines to the meeting Egypt and Ethiopia will have a separate meeting in a bilateral effort to tackle the crisis.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr is expected to arrive in Addis Ababa on Monday where he will meet his Ethiopian counterpart Hailemariam Desalegn to organise fresh peace talks for between Sudan and South Sudan along with other regional and international bodies.
Chairman of the African Union Commission Jean Ping has called on Juba and Khartoum to return to talks which, until Khartoum pulled out of them earlier this month, were chaired by Thabo Mbeki’s African Union High Implementation Panel (AHUIP).
Tensions have been rising since South Sudan broke away from Sudan last year as part of a 2005 peace deal. The partition itself passed off peacefully but many issues were left unresolved including security, borders, citizenship and nationality, and oil transit fees.
Both sides accuse the other of backing rebellions in the other’s territories and the Sudanese air force has been condemned by the UN for bombing South Sudan.
Relations further deteriorated following South Sudan’s seizure of the Heglig region close to two weeks ago, after what Juba described as northern "aggression".
Despite South Sudan’s army losing control of Heglig to Khartoum last Friday, the two sides appeared to have resumed clashes on Sunday.
On Monday, Sudan’s air force bombed South Sudan’s Unity State.
It is feared that the situation could lead to a full-scale war further causing regional instability.