There is not war in Sudan, the U.S. envoy said Thursday, adding he had been misquoted by media claiming he's stated conflict had reached these levels. However, conflict escalation on the border between the North and South was "terribly troublesome," Ambassador Princeton Lyman added.
"Across that border, there have been support for proxies, and there's spillover from the Southern Kordofan-Blue Nile wars," Lyman told the press during a State Department teleconference. "And that is creating a series of clashes and conflicts across the border as each tries to secure its own interests as they see them along that border."
The ambassador urged both sides to move ahead with demilitarization, verification and monitoring along the 12.5-mile border, adding that providing additional peacekeepers is not an option being considered at the moment.
Center for Strategic and International Studies Africa Program Deputy Director Richard Downie believes there is not good prospects for a near-term end to the conflict. "For the time being, neither side is showing much inclination to step back from the brink or suggest a realistic basis for negotiations," he said.
"Special Envoy Princeton Lyman is engaged in shuttle diplomacy, visiting both Juba and Khartoum this week, but the reality is that the United States has limited capacity to influence events," Downie added.
Fierce border clashes between Sudan and South Sudan erupted late last month, when the South crossed the porous border with the North and occupied a crucial oil producing region called Heglig.
The U.S., the U.N. and other international organizations have characterized the occupation as illegal and an unnecessary provocation.
But Ambassador Lyman sought to soften these remarks Thursday, explaining how the South does not believe they acted outside of the law by ceding Heglig.
"'Didn't you know,' [South Sudan] said, 'that we have claimed Heglig as part of the disputed border area?' Well, in fact, in the discussions that have gone on in the disputed border areas, that was not clear," Lyman said. "And so people did assume, as we did, that there was at least, if not an officially recognized by both sides border, there was a border which was crossed. They don't see it that way."
The largely Christian and animist South gained control of nearly 75 percent of Sudan's oil production when they declared independence from the Muslim North on July 9 last year. The two nations are yet to resolve several outstanding post-secession issues and disputes over oil transit fees. Both countries are heavily dependent on oil revenues.
Going forward, Lyman said a cessation to hostilities will be spurred by international diplomatic action. The U.S. will participate in two meetings - an African Union Peace and Security Council meeting and Arab League emergency meeting - scheduled to discuss the Sudan issue next week.
by RTT Staff Writer
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