Sudan-S Sudan restive border quiet

2012-05-04 12:34

Juba - Violence on the contested border between Sudan and South Sudan appeared to subside on Friday just hours ahead of a UN deadline to cease hostilities or face possible sanctions, the South's army said.

"There is no report of bombing... no fighting," Southern army spokesperson Philip Aguer said, adding the last reported incident was Sudanese air strikes and artillery shelling of Southern army positions on Thursday.

Troops from the rival armies are dug into fortified defensive positions along the restive border following weeks of bloody clashes that have pushed them to the brink of all-out war.

Both Khartoum and Juba have pledged to seek peace after the UN Security Council passed a resolution Wednesday giving the two countries 48 hours to stop fighting, including air raids. The deadline is set for 15:00 GMT.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pressed Sudan on Friday to cease bombing the South.

"Together we need to keep sending a strong message to the government of Sudan that it must immediately and unconditionally halt all cross-border attacks, particularly its provocative aerial bombardments," Clinton said during a meeting with Chinese leaders in Beijing, according to her prepared remarks.

China has previously come under strong US criticism for its support of Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir, who faces an international arrest warrant on Darfur genocide allegations. But Beijing supported the UN resolution and has reached out to South Sudan, which controls much of the region's oil potential and China is a major energy importer.

Clashes and air strikes

Weeks of bloody clashes between the former civil war foes began late in March, peaking with the South's seizure of the key Heglig oil field from Khartoum's army, before pulling back after international condemnation.

The South said it pulled out of Heglig in response to international calls, but Sudan claimed its military forced out the occupiers.

However, clashes and air strikes by Sudanese warplanes continued, prompting the UN ultimatum, which includes an order for the two sides to restart African Union-mediated peace talks within two weeks, by 16 May.

The UN resolution threatens additional non-military sanctions if either side fails to meet its conditions, and urges Sudan to halt air strikes, which Khartoum has repeatedly denied carrying out.

South Sudan's Minister for Cabinet Affairs Deng Alor Kuol offered his country's "solemn commitment" to respect the resolution.

Sudan pledged late Thursday to cease hostilities with the South - hours after a reported air strike against Southern frontline positions - but Khartoum's foreign ministry warned it retained the right to defend itself against "aggression".

Khartoum also repeated charges the South had on Monday occupied a disputed area on the border of Sudan's Darfur region and South Sudan's Western Bahr el-Ghazal state.

This came a day after the South took over another disputed point on the Darfur border, the ministry said, citing further examples of "continuous aggression and attack from South Sudan's army on Sudanese soil until today".

Oil transit fees

Both sides also accuse each other of arming rebel fighters as proxy forces - claims each side refutes.

While still one country, north and south Sudan fought a two-decade civil war up to 2005 in which more than two million people died.

South Sudan became independent last July following an overwhelming referendum vote for secession.

But the two countries are still at odds over oil transit fees landlocked South should pay Sudan for using its pipeline and refinery, border demarcation and the status of citizens of either country living in the other's territory.