News24

Sudan leaders to meet over conflict

2011-06-11 18:30

Khartoum - The presidents of north and south Sudan are to meet in Addis Ababa on Sunday to discuss the crises in the border regions of Abyei and South Kordofan, China's envoy for African affairs said on Saturday.

"There will a meeting tomorrow between President [Omar al-] Bashir and his Vice President Salva Kiir in Addis Ababa to discuss the issues of Abyei and South Kordofan," Liu Guijin said after meeting Bashir in Khartoum on Saturday.

Suna state news agency said the talks would also be attended by Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and former South African president Thabo Mbeki, who heads an AU team trying to resolve outstanding issues between north and south ahead of southern independence on July 9.

Heavy clashes between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and northern members of the former southern rebel army have raged all week across South Kordofan, the north's only oil producing state, with intense fighting in and around the state capital Kadugli.

This week's violence has poisoned the atmosphere of the north-south negotiations that have been taking place in Ethiopia, according to a source close to the talks.

Deaths

On Saturday, the information minister for southern Sudan's Unity state, which neighbours South Kordofan, said five civilians were killed in SAF air strikes south of the border two days earlier.

"There was an Antonov aerial bombardment on Thursday morning... in a place called Payam Jau, in Parieng county, on the Unity state side of the border," Gideon Gatpan said by phone.

"Now it is confirmed that five people were killed and 11 wounded. They were aiming at the positions of the JIUs [northern elements of the southern army who have moved south]. Instead they hit these civilians," he said.

Gatpan said the area had not seen Antonov air strikes for six or seven years.

The South Kordofan conflict erupted less than three weeks after northern troops occupied the contested Abyei border region nearby, in response to an attack on a convoy of SAF troops and UN peacekeepers.

The violence comes just a month before south Sudan is due to proclaim formal independence from the north.

UN officials estimate more 100 000 people, mostly ethnically southern Dinka Ngok farmers, fled the northern army's occupation of Abyei in May, while up to 40 000 people have been displaced by the fighting in Kadugli alone.