June 11, 2014 (JUBA) – South Sudan has once again downplayed tension with the government of neighbouring Sudan over rebel activities, as president Salva Kiir discussed bilateral relations with Sudanese vice-president Barki Hassan Saleh this week.
- South Sudan’s president, Salva Kiir, (R) welcomes his Sudanese counterpart, Omer Hassan al-Bashir outside his oresidential office in Juba on 12 April 2013 (Reuters)
A new tension in the fragile relations between Khartoum and Juba appeared last week when a South Sudanese rebel delegation held a press conference in Khartoum, triggering a strong reaction from South Sudan’s embassy which termed the matter a clear violation of bilateral agreements.
After what, newspapers in Khartoum released statements allegedly attributed to the foreign minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin saying that Juba considers to cancel the cooperation agreements. But, the South Sudanese embassy in Khartoum swiftly issued a statement denying it.
The South Sudanese deputy foreign minister on Wednesday, reiterated that differences over the issues of concern between the two capitals would be addressed through diplomatic channels and reaffirmed full commitment to further strengthening strong and comprehensive bilateral cooperative partnership between the two nations.
Peter Bashir Gbandi, told Sudan Tribune that president Kiir had met with the Sudanese first-vice president on the sideline of the IGAD heads of state and government summit about the conflict in his country and reaffirmed their shared determination to lift bilateral ties and cooperation to higher levels and bring more benefits to their peoples.
“They had fruitful discussions about the current situation and the president appreciated the government of Sudan for playing a positive role in the current mediation. The first vice president of Sudan on the other hand reiterated commitment of his government to continue their support to the legitimacy of the democratically elected government of the Republic South Sudan under the leadership of President Salva Kiir Mayardit,” Gbandi said.
Gbandi further added that the two leaders applauded the “historical friendship between the two countries” and expressed commitments to continue to maintain high-level exchanges, cement mutual trust and boost practical cooperation on various fields.
Sudan, he said, conveyed its readiness to encourage South Sudan support Sudanese enterprises and individuals with business interest to invest in the country in different areas including financial institutions and to actively explore the possibility of helping the new nation rebuild itself through investors from the Arab and other African countries in major development projects such as railway, road, power grid and other infrastructure.
The two sides also agreed to further expand people-to-people exchanges in culture and education, among other areas, and strive for closer ties between the youth, women, civic organisation and academic institutions of the two countries.
“Our relations with Sudan have now advanced into a new pattern featuring all-dimensional and multi-tiered cooperation with inter-governmental, inter-party and people-to-people exchanges functioning as pillars, and political, economic and security cooperation agreement serving as the mainstay”, he said.
In Juba, the government owned South Sudan Television on Tuesday broadcast imagines showing president Salva Kiir greeting the Sudanese first vice-president in Addis Ababa.
It also broadcast a statement saying president Kiir had received assurances of support from Sudanese president Omer Hassan Ahmed Al-Bashir and his government through its first vice-president at the meeting with the latter.
Last week, state minister of information reiterated the Sudanese government support to the signed agreements between the two countries and Khartoum support to the “legitimate government” of president Kiir.
Yasser Youssef, who is also the spokesperson of the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) stressed that the visit of the rebel delegation should be seen within the framework of Khartoum’s efforts to end the six-month conflict in South Sudan.
News papers in Khartoum reported that the vice-president Saleh discussed the issue of the rebel Sudanese Revolutionary Front (SRF) with president Kiir.
Sudanese officials believe that Juba continue its support to the rebel groups, a matter that South Sudanese government persists to deny.
Last May, the foreign ministry in Khartoum said the South Sudanese army uses Sudanese rebel groups in its war against rebels aligned with former vice-president Riek Machar.