Little tamed are remarks of the otherwise diplomatic African Union Commission Chairperson, Jean Ping, who accused both South Sudan and Sudan of being trapped in a logic of war,” destabilizing themselves and the region as recent conflicts are feared to escalate into another all-out war.
The chairperson called on Sudan, and South Sudan to end their ‘senseless fighting’ and immediately return to negotiations.
“The commission urges the two parties to immediately and unconditionally resume negotiations, under the auspices of AU High-Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP), to reach agreements on all outstanding issues as they relate to security, border demarcation, nationality and citizenship, transitional financial arrangements and Abyei in accordance with the overriding principle of establishing two viable states in Sudan and South Sudan,” said Ping in a statement released last Sunday.
Chaired by former South African President Thabo Mbeki, the AUHIP has been hosting negotiations for the two countries to help them solve disputes that have followed South Sudan’s succession in July.
The panel initiated talks to demarcate borders between the two countries which will be Africa’s longest. As the talks stalled and fighting broke out in the disputed oil-rich town of Heglig earlier this month, the two countries have stepped up rhetoric and a return to an all-out war seemed inevitable.
The regional body said that recourse to force will never bring about a lasting solution.
“The chairperson of the commission stresses the need for both parties to refrain from inflammatory statements, which will not only complicate the current and delicate situation, but also undermine the prospects for brotherly relations between the two states and their peoples,” said the AU’s statement.
Convening a high-level ministerial meeting on Tuesday here in Addis Ababa, the Peace and Security Council of the AU called on Sudan to stop its aerial bombardment of South Sudan and for both countries to cease hostilities.
The Peace and Security Council issued a communiqué with a seven-point roadmap calling for a halt to the fighting and giving Sudan and South Sudan two weeks to restart negotiations that broke down earlier this month. It gave the two nations three months to complete negotiations.
The AU also said Sudan and South Sudan should withdraw their forces from the disputed border region, keep their troops within their borders, and stop supporting rebel groups in each other’s nation. It demanded the two neighboring countries stop issuing inflammatory statements and propaganda that could escalate the conflict. The AU also asked the UN Security Council to endorse the roadmap.
South Sudan won independence from Sudan last year as part of a 2005 peace treaty that ended decades of war that killed 2 million people.
Susan Rice, the US ambassador to the United Nations and the current Security Council president, told reporters after a meeting on Sudan late Tuesday that members had just seen the communiqué and would be consulting their governments.
Speaking for the United States, she called it “a positive and constructive contribution’’ and said the United States will be consulting with council members “about their readiness and willingness to contemplate (the) next steps that reflect the thrust of the AU communiqué.’’
In a move that might ease tensions, South Sudan released 13 captured Sudanese soldiers. On their way home, the released soldiers stopped late Wednesday in Egypt, which mediated their release, Egyptian Foreign Ministry official Mohammed Morsi said. The freed soldiers were accompanied by Red Cross staff members.