Clinton calls for renewed Sudan talks
Washington - The birth of South Sudan is an important first step toward peace for a troubled region, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Sunday, calling for renewed talks to cement the tenuous truce.
"Just as independence was not inevitable, neither is a lasting peace between Sudan and South Sudan," Clinton wrote in an opinion piece in The Washington Post.
"Decades of war have left deep distrust on both sides," said Clinton, urging both sides to "quickly return to the negotiating table and seek to complete the unfinished business of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement".
For decades, until the CPA was signed in 2005, southern rebels fought successive wars with the north, leaving the region in ruins, millions of people dead and a legacy of mutual mistrust.
South Sudan's independence on Saturday came exactly six months after southerners voted almost unanimously to split with their former enemies in the north, after a two-decade civil war in which some two million people died.
But Clinton said more talks were needed to answer "outstanding questions related to finances, oil and citizenship; demarcating remaining border areas, and fully implementing their agreement on temporary arrangements for the contested Abyei area."
Claimed by both sides, Abyei did not take part in the independence referendum because the rival parties could not agree who should be eligible to vote. An accord to demilitarise the territory was reached on June 20.
The US ambassador to the United Nations is warning that the peace between Sudan and South Sudan could unravel unless outstanding issues between the two countries are quickly resolved.
Susan Rice represented the US in South Sudan on Saturday as the country formally became independent from Sudan.
On Sunday Rice told The Associated Press that the US wants the two countries to solve contentious issues including the exact demarcation of the border and the future of their shared oil industry.
Celebrations rang out in South Sudan on Saturday to mark southern independence, an event that came after decades of civil war between Sudan's north and south. On Sunday in Juba, the new country capital, small groups of people still sung and danced on street corners.
Clinton expressed concern over a recent flare-up of violence in the region, which she said "cannot be allowed to return and jeopardise the larger peace".
The UN Security Council last month ordered a 4 200-strong Ethiopian peacekeeping force to the territory in a bid to douse tensions ahead of the split.
With fighting also flaring in the neighbouring state of South Kordofan, north-south rivalry is still an international concern despite Saturday's declaration of independence.
Clinton, who met with leaders of Sudan and South Sudan in Addis Ababa last month, said that each country also has substantial internal problems to resolve.
South Sudan she said, must address its "wrenching poverty, inadequate education and health care, and the continuing presence of armed militia groups."
Sudan, meanwhile, must "end its isolation in the international community. That is the only way it will secure access to international financing, investment and debt relief".
"The United States is prepared to help - including by normalising our bilateral relations - and we have taken some initial steps in that direction," she said.
"But we can move forward only if Sudan fulfils its obligations and demonstrates its commitment to peace within its borders and with its neighbours."