South Sudan's President Salva Kiir has alleged that Sudan has declared war on his country, noting the continued fighting between security forces of both the countries along their shared border for weeks.
Kiir made the remarks during talks with his Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao on Tuesday in Beijing where he arrived on a four-day tour of China. Notably, China is the major oil purchaser from the two rival African nations.
Kiir reportedly told Hu that his Chinese visit came "at a very critical moment for the Republic of South Sudan because our neighbor in Khartoum has declared war on the Republic of South Sudan." Kiir also described China as one of South Sudan's "economic and strategic partners."
According to Chinese state television, Hu responded to Kiir's remarks by calling for calm and urging the rival governments in Juba and Khartoum to exercise restraint so as to prevent the ongoing border conflict from escalating into war.
Further, China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin noted that oil was "the economic lifeline" for both Sudan and South Sudan, and said: "To maintain the stability and sustainability of the oil cooperation is consistent with the fundamental interests of both countries."
"It is also consistent with the interests of Chinese enterprises and their partners. We hope the oil negotiation between Sudan and South Sudan will make progress and [the two countries] will find a solution that both of them and other sides involved can accept," he added.
In contrast to Kiir's claims, Sudan is yet to formally declare war on its neighbor. The latest development comes days after South Sudan withdrew its troops from Sudan's oil-rich Heglig border region late last week after capturing it an earlier military operation.
Nevertheless, Sudanese military insisted that the withdrawal was forced by an offensive launched by its troops. Sudan had earlier pledged to use "all legitimate means" to recapture the oil field and warned of "destruction" in the South. Sudan also withdrew from negotiations on post-secession issues with the South and lodged separate complaints with the United Nations as well as the African Union about South Sudan's "aggression."
Media reports suggest that Sudan continued to launch air raids inside South Sudan. Sudanese warplanes had bombed Bentiu town in South Sudan's Unity state on Monday, hitting the Rubkona market and killing at least one person and injuring four others.
The ongoing border clashes mark the biggest confrontation between the two sides after South Sudan seceded from Sudan in July last in line with a 2005 peace agreement ending 22 years of civil war between the Arab North and the Christian and animist South. More than 100,000 people are said to have been displaced by the ongoing hostilities.
The U.N. Security Council had urged Sudan and South Sudan last week to enforce a "complete, immediate, unconditional" end to all fighting. The Council also said it was considering a slew of measures, including possible sanctions, to pressurize the two nations to end their ongoing conflict. Further, U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon urged the two nations on Monday "to stop the slide toward further confrontation and... to return to dialogue as a matter of urgency."
South Sudan had gained control of nearly 75 percent of Sudan's oil production with a daily output of around 500,000 barrels when they declared independence on July 9 last year. The two nations are yet to resolve several outstanding post-secession issues and settle disputes over oil transit fees. Both countries are heavily dependent on oil revenues. South Sudan recently suspended its oil production because of the dispute with Sudan over oil transit fees.
by RTT Staff Writer
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