South Sudan said Sudan attacked it with aerial bombing raids and ground artillery on Monday and Tuesday, accusing Khartoum of trying to sabotage international peace initiatives.
Juba said its armed forces could retaliate if Sudan made further assaults, raising the prospect of a return to the fighting which the United Nations and the African Union are seeking to prevent.
“South Sudan views the current aerial bombardment... as a serious threat to both regional and international peace and security,” South Sudan’s Information Minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin told reporters.
“South Sudan is watching this crisis very closely... we will be forced also to react to these acts of aggression,” he added, without giving further details.
The former civil war foes fought heavily in contested border regions last month, the worst fighting since the South won independence last July and sparking international concerns of a return to all-out war.
The bombings Monday and Tuesday targeted the Waragat area of Northern Bahr el Ghazal state, a border region close to Sudan’s war-torn South Darfur state, Benjamin said.
The air strikes could not be independently confirmed, and Sudan’s army repeatedly denied Southern claims of air strikes during weeks of bitter border conflict. The last air strike reported by the South was on May 9.
Both sides say they are committed to peace but missed a United Nations Security Council demand that they resume the talks by last Wednesday. The South has said it is ready to talk and accused Khartoum of stalling.
The African Union is working hard to resume talks between the foes, with its chief mediator, former South African president Thabo Mbeki, embarking on rounds of shuttle diplomacy between the two capitals.
Mbeki, who visited Juba on Monday, said he was hopeful the two sides could set a date to restart talks by the end of the week.
However, Benjamin demanded the U.N. and AU order Khartoum to end its air raids.
“The Sudan government has been dragging its feet trying to set an agenda (at the talks),” Benjamin added. “What do we get with the presence of president Mbeki in Juba? The Sudan government then attacks.”