Fighting between the two Sudans reportedly claimed at least 22 lives today, just a day after the African Union urged the neighbours to “act responsibly in the spirit of co-operation.”
South Sudanese military officials said the soldiers had been killed in a firefight near the town of Meiram in Sudan’s South Kordofan state.
Meiram mayor Colonel Fathi Arabi confirmed the exchange that he said had followed a “border violation” by Southern troops and added that the dead were still being counted.
The African Union (AU) called upon the two countries yesterday to take “immediate steps to reduce tensions, and to act responsibly in the spirit of co-operation.”
The AU offered the services of its border programme, which “stands ready to assist the parties in resolving their concerns in the delineation, demarcation and the resolution of disputed areas based on African best practices and
South Sudan split from Sudan on July 9 2011, gaining 75 per cent of Sudan’s oil-producing regions in the process.
An uneasy peace between the two states crumbled in mid-April when South Sudan’s military occupied the oil-rich region of Heglig inside Sudan’s borders.
Military officials claim hundreds of soldiers have since died in the conflict fighting but it is all but impossible to independently verify the toll.
AU envoy Thabo Mbeki and the UN’s special envoy to Sudan briefed the United Nations security council on the conflict on Tuesday.
The two states “have created a problem for both of themselves, but they’ve also created a problem for the region and for the continent as a whole,” Mr Mbeki said.
“That is why the AU was very quick to issue a public statement to indicate what the African continent believes needs to be done to end the fighting and to ensure that the two sides come back into a course of negotiations, which
I’m sure will happen.”
Mr Mbeki added: “Khartoum will not engage in those negotiations until South Sudan pulls out of Heglig.
“That must happen fast. And it’s only after that they will engage in negotiations.”
The security council on Tuesday reiterated its demand for a “complete, immediate, and unconditional end to all fighting.”
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