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UN chief chides South Sudan over ‘illegal’ occupation of Heglig

April 19, 2012 (WASHINGTON) – The United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon on Thursday blasted South Sudan for its occupation of Heglig area in South Kordofan last week calling it “illegal”.

United Nations secretary-general Ban Ki-moon speaks to the media following a UN Security Council meeting on the crises in both Syria and South Sudan (Photo: Getty Images)

"I call on South Sudan to immediately withdraw forces from Heglig. This is an infringement on the sovereignty of Sudan and a clearly illegal act," Ban told reporters.

"I also call on the government of Sudan to immediately stop shelling and bombing South Sudanese territory and withdraw its forces from disputed territories," he said.

The UN chief’s remarks will likely add to pressure placed on Juba by the international community to withdraw from the oil-rich region.

South Sudan has suggested that Heglig belongs to its Unity State and that it was administratively annexed as part of South Kordofan three decades ago.

Officials in Juba nonetheless have expressed willingness to withdraw if Sudan fulfills a number of conditions including deploying peacekeepers in Heglig, stopping aerial bombardments and for Khartoum to pull out its troops from disputed Abyei border region.

But Sudan insists that the south withdraws without any conditions. The fighting continued around Heglig until Thursday according to reports from both sides but the details remain murky as journalists have not been able to access to the battlefields.

Ban called on both governments to put an end to the fighting.

"I have impressed on both governments the necessity of ending the fighting and returning to negotiations. They have yet to heed our call" he said.

Analysts are fearful that the upsurge in battles will be a prelude to a full blown war between the two sides that would reignite the civil war which ended officially in 2005.