April 17, 2012 (WASHINGTON) – The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) is considering imposing sanctions on the governments of Khartoum and Juba amid continued military fighting along the poorly defined borders.
- United States Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice (AFP)
The conflict exploded after South Sudan’s army (SPLA) occupied the oil-rich region of Heglig, which is claimed by both sides but has supplied Sudan with half of the country’s oil production since South Sudan’s independence last year.
Juba claims that it was simply chasing the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) that launched aerial and ground attacks inside Unity State.
The international community demanded South Sudan’s withdrawal from Heglig and cessation of aerial bombardments by Sudan’s air force.
The African Union (AU) mediation team led by former South African president Thabo Mbeki briefed the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) along with UN special envoy to Sudan and South Sudan Haile Menkerios on Tuesday in a closed session via video conference from Addis Ababa.
US ambassador to the UN Susan Rice said that the two men described a disturbing situation in which both parties are locked in “a logic of war”.
“Mbeki and Menkerios described the divergent views of the two parties on the current situation. They stress that hardliners are winning the day in both Juba and Khartoum and urged the Security Council to engage with both governments directly to convince them to walk back their positions” Rice said.
“Council members expressed grave concern over the situation and committed to make every effort to convince the parties to cease hostilities and return to the negotiating table” she added.
The US diplomat said that UNSC members “reiterated their demand for a complete, immediate, and unconditional end to all fighting, the withdrawal of the SPLA from Heglig, and an end to Sudanese armed forces aerial bombardments; an end to repeated incidents of cross-border violence and to support, by both sides, to proxies in each other’s country”.
Furthermore, the council also called on both countries to withdraw their forces from the Abyei region as per the agreement reached last year by which Ethiopian peacekeepers would fill the security vacuum there.
According to Rice, the UNSC discussed ways by which they can convince the parties to implement the council’s demands including through sanctions.
Sudan’s parliament this week declared Juba’s government an enemy vowing to unseat the ruling Sudan People Liberation Movement (SPLM) by any means necessary. Khartoum has in the past accused Juba of hosting rebel groups whose intention is to topple the regime led by president Omer Hassan al-Bashir.
The US ambassador hoped that this is nothing more than rhetoric on the part of both countries.
“There was discussion in the context of Mbeki’s briefing about the perception in Khartoum, that the South’s objectives are regime change, and he reported indeed that the North has said, if that is the case and they believe it to be so, their objective is now also regime change,” Rice said.
“I think frankly, one would hope that this is rhetoric and not the objective or the purported objective of either side. Reality is both sides have over time provided support to proxies in each other’s territory. There is little doubt about that. It has continued in both directions and it needs to end as we have said on a national basis and the Council has said on an international basis” she added.
Photos released from Heglig area by Associated Press and McClatchy Newspapers showed rebels from the Darfur Justice and Equality Movement (JEM).
JEM is part of the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF) which also includes Sudan Liberation Movement Abdul-Wahid Nur (SLM-AW), Sudan Liberation Movement Minni Minnawi (SLM-MM) and Sudan People’s Liberation Movement North (SPLM-N).
SPLM-N is the main rebel group fighting Khartoum since last year in Blue Nile and South Kordofan. The fighters in both states are led by former Blue Nile governor Malik Agar and former deputy South Kordofan governor Abdel-Aziz al-Hilu.
Mbeki’s panel has been working for almost two years in trying to help Khartoum and Juba reach an agreement on several post-referendum issues mainly oil, borders, Abyei, citizenship and national debt.
A summit between Bashir and his southern counterpart Salva Kiir arranged by Mbeki in Juba on 3 April was called off following the first military confrontation in Heglig at the end of last month.
Al Jazeera English | UN Security Council weighs Sudan sanctions | 18 April 2012
Sudan and South Sudan have accused each other of launching attacks on a new front near the border. It follows talks by the UN Security Council on possible sanctions against both countries. Al Jazeera’s Sherine Tadros reports from Khartoum.