May 29, 2014 (JUBA) – South Sudan’s president Salva Kiir has officially invited his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin for a state visit, the country’s foreign minister said on Thursday.
- Russian President Vladimir Putin looks on during a joint news conference with European Council President Herman Van Rompuy and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso (unseen) following a European Union-Russia summit in Brussels December 21, 2012 (Reuters/Francois Lenoir)
“I also delivered a letter from H.E President Salva Kiir Mayardit to President Putin inviting the president to possibly visit South Sudan,” Barnaba Marial told reporters on arrival from the Russian capital, Moscow.
A response, he said, was yet to come from the Russian authorities.
Marial revealed that he and his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov also discussed “bilateral issues” as well as humanitarian assistance to the world’s youngest nation.
“We also thanked the Russian government through the minister of foreign affairs for their strong stand in rejecting any sanctions against the Republic of South Sudan in the [United Nations] Security Council because they did not agree on any sanction – whether individual sanctions or against the country and it is our duty also to thank them", he said.
The minister conveyed condolences from the South Sudan president over the crash of a Russian helicopter in South Sudan in December 2012. The helicopter was shot down by South Sudan army (SPLA) with four Russian pilots working for the UN mission in the new nation killed.
"Hopefully, we will find a mutually advantageous solution to this problem. We will support the families of the deceased pilots", Marial told Voice of Russia.
South Sudan is currently embroiled in an armed opposition rebellion led by its former vice-president Riek Machar. Last month, the United States administration sanctioned two army officers from both sides of the conflict for allegedly obstructing ongoing peace talks.
Both the United Nations and the European Union also threatened individual sanctions on government and rebel officers accused of committing human rights violations.
Marial, however, maintained that Juba is not turning its back to the west saying the new country recognises US support to the “legitimately elected government of South Sudan and that is why [US] Secretary John Kerry was here".
In 2011, South Sudan and Russia signed a deal on establishing diplomatic relations.
The two countries, in the agreement, reportedly agreed to base their relations on the ground of the mutual respect of their independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity, non-involvement in the domestic affairs, peaceful settlement of disputes and other international laws declared, in particular the UN Charter.