August 21, 2016 (KHARTOUM/JUBA) - South Sudan’s First Vice-President Taban Deng Gai has arrived in Khartoum on Sunday holding a special message from President Salva Kiir Mayardit to his Sudanese counterpart, Omer al-Bashir.
Gai’s first visit to Sudan comes just weeks after he replaced former rebel leader Riek Machar as vice president after clashes in Juba left hundreds dead in July.
He was received at Khartoum airport by Sudan’s First Vice-President Bakri Hassan Salih and a number of cabinet ministers.
According to the minister in South Sudan’s office of the President, Mayiik Ayii, Gai is going to Sudan with a message of commitment of the government and personal commitment of President Salva Kiir “to establishing a very robust and productive relationship in the fields of diplomacy, economic trade and political ties between the two countries in pursuit of mutual interest”.
Ayii said other objective of the mission is to assure the Khartoum of the commitment of the government to implementing peace agreement and move forward.
For his part, Sudan’s State Minister for Foreign Affairs Kamal al-Din Ismail said in press statements at Khartoum airport following the arrival of Gai, that the latter would discuss several bilateral and regional issues of common concern particularly with regard to the economic and security files besides the crisis in South Sudan.
He renewed Sudan’s firm stance toward IGAD’s resolutions to resolve South Sudan’s crisis through negotiations and dialogue.
“We receive Taban in his capacity as Vice-President of South Sudan and would cooperate with him,” he said.
“We aren’t the party who decides who should be the President or Vice-President of South [Sudan] because this is an internal affair that must be decided by the South. Our general stance is to deal with the events as they are and take into consideration that the government of the South is a legitimate one,” he added.
Responding to a question on the escape of Riek Machar to a neighboring country, Ismail said “it is clear that Machar was evacuated by the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in cooperation with the United Nations”.
The Kenyan Standard news website on Thursday reported that the Sudanese government had sent an aircraft to evacuate the former first vice president from a hideout in a remote town in the DRC where he crossed into after 40 days in the bushes.
However, an SPLM-IO official told Sudan Tribune that the report published by the Kenyan website was “unfounded.”
“Khartoum was not involved in the rescue operation, there was no any Sudanese airplane used as reported,” he said.
Gai’s visit to Sudanese capital, Khartoum, is the third official visit to neigbouring countries in his capacity as the First Vice President in place of armed opposition leader, Riek Machar.
South Sudan seceded from Sudan on July 9th 2011 following a referendum on whether the semi-autonomous region should remain a part of the country or become independent. 99% of the southern voters chose independence.
Relations between the two nations soured after South Sudan’s independence following a series of disputes over a number of issues.