U.S. President Barack Obama late Friday called for an end to fighting between Sudan and South Sudan and negotiations between the leaders of the two countries to settle their conflict.
“We know what needs to happen ̶ the government of Sudan must stop its military actions, including aerial bombardments,” Obama said in a videotaped message to the people of the two countries.
“Likewise, the government of South Sudan must end its support for armed groups inside Sudan and it must cease its military actions across the border,” the president added in the address released by the State Department.
“The presidents of Sudan and South Sudan must have the courage to return to the table and negotiate and resolve these issues peacefully,” Obama pointed out.
The appeal came after Sudan said on Friday its forces had chased South Sudanese troops out of its main oilfield as the South ordered an end to its 10-day occupation, a move which had sparked fears of a wider war.
Border clashes between Sudan and South Sudan escalated last week with waves of air strikes hitting the South, and Juba seizing the Heglig oil hub on April 10.
Since the invasion, production at Heglig has been shut and facilities there are leaking. Each side accused the other of damaging the oil infrastructure.
On Friday, Sudan’s President Omar Hassan al-Bashir said that Sudan did not want fees from South Sudanese oil and threatened to keep Sudan’s oil pipelines closed to the South’s crude exports following fighting in the disputed border region.
“We don’t want fees from the oil of South Sudan and we will not open the pipeline. There is no oil from South Sudan that will pass through our pure land, so that not one dollar goes to these criminals,” Bashir told a rally in Khartoum attended by thousands of people, according to Reuters.
Sudan, meanwhile, set four conditions on Friday for “normal” relations with South Sudan, after the South ended its 10-day armed occupation of Heglig.
After the South ending its occupation, Sudan quickly declared victory, saying its armed forces had “liberated” the area by force as thousands of people poured onto the streets of Khartoum cheering, dancing, honking car horns and waving flags.
South Sudan’s seizure of the territory had raised the prospect of two sovereign African states waging war against each other openly for the first time since Ethiopia fought newly independent Eritrea in 1998-2000. The Heglig violence was also the worst since South Sudan won independence in July after a 1983-2005 civil war in which some two million people died.
On Thursday, United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon condemned the South’s taking of Heglig as an “illegal act.”
But Juba is arguing that Heglig is its territory and has asked for international arbitration.
Obama warned that progress made by the two countries toward peace and prosperity was now “at risk of unraveling” and urged the two nations to step back from the brink.
“You still have a chance to avoid being dragged back into war, which only leads to one place ̶ more suffering; more refugees; more death; more lost dreams for you and your children,” said the U.S. president.
Obama insisted that “all those who are fighting ̶ including in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile ̶ must recognize that there is no military solution.”
He said that those who choose to work toward peace will not be alone.
“You will have a strong and steady partner in the United States of America,” the president promised.
The message was broadcast both in English and Arabic.
South Sudan broke away from the north following a referendum under a 2005 peace deal.