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Obama OK's $26 Million For Sudan Refugees


President Barack Obama has authorized the United States to release $26 million in emergency aid for Sudan, a White House memorandum has confirmed.

The funds will be disbursed from the Emergency Refugee and Migration Assistance Fund by the State Department's Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration "to respond to the unexpected and urgent needs resulting from the conflict in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states of Sudan," the memo said.

The tranche is expected to be used "to provide lifesaving protection and assistance to the over 140,000 refugees who have fled the two states," which have seen increased violence since South Sudan separated from the north in July of last year.

The violence worsened this week after clashes between the South Sudanese army and the north's Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) in the oil-rich border area of Unity.

Violence has led to food shortage and refugee issues in the South Kordofan and Blue Nile areas.

In the White House announcement, Obama called on the Government of Sudan "to allow full and unfettered access for international humanitarian agencies" to these areas.

"I think for all of us in the international community, it's important not only to encourage the governments to reach an agreement on oil, but to reach an agreement on the issues that are dividing them so sharply and creating so much conflict," Ambassador Princeton Lyman said during a teleconference April 2nd.

Lyman also urged both sides to avoid conflict in border areas over oil, stating "I think it's very important that both sides be extremely careful under the current tensions and fighting at the border, that neither crosses the line of attacking oil installations, because I think that would deepen the conflict very much."

The Obama administration, along with the international community, has ramped up pressure on Khartoum in recent weeks to ease tensions and stop violence along the border.

On March 6th, the United Nations Security Council issued a Presidential Statement demanding an end to the cycle of violence. A bipartisan bill (H.R. 4169) introduced to the U.S. House on March 7th went a step further by calling for sanctions on Khartoum.

"The President shall impose on any person or government at least two of the sanctions specified in section 7 if the President determines and certifies...that such person or government has supported or assisted the Government of Sudan...in the commission, or assistance in the commission, of serious human rights violations in Sudan," the bill stated.

Officials have also expressed concern over a recent canceled meeting between South Sudan President Salva Kiir and Sudanese President Omar Bashir.

U.S. officials have called for the meeting to be rescheduled in the coming days, but no efforts have yet been made to do so by either country.

Although some in the international community are calling for the U.S. to take a side in the conflict, others see the continued neutral position of Sudan's largest donor as imperative.

So far, it seems as though the White House is heeding this call.

In the aid announcement Tuesday, Obama called for both countries "to exercise maximum restraint and to reach a negotiated settlement to the outstanding issues between them."

by RTTNews Staff Writer

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