Sudan’s information minister said Khartoum can play a pivotal role in breaking the impasse in South Sudan peace negotiations in Ethiopia.
Ahmed Bilal said, besides the fact that Sudan and South Sudan were once one country, President Omar al-Bashir has played a neutral role in the conflict.
Bilal’s comments come as Bashir travels to Juba Thursday to attend a South Sudan peace summit called by the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD). The regional group has been mediating the peace talks in Addis Ababa.
Efforts to end the month-long conflict have been hampered by South Sudan’s refusal to release 11 political detainees as demanded by the former vice president, Riek Machar.
Bilal said Bashir’s good relations with Kiir make him the most capable person to break the stalemate in the peace process.
“Actually, President Bashir and also the IGAD presidents are coming together to Juba to find the way to solving the main obstacle of the negotiations which is the release of the prisoners in Juba,” he said.
Bilal also said Bashir has been concerned about the war and the hundreds of thousands of refugees it has been creating, many of whom have been crossing into Sudan.
He said Bashir hopes to use his familiarity with the two men to get the parties to agree to a ceasefire and also get Kiir to meet Machar’s key demand to release the detainees.
“Actually, since the first day of the fighting of this war, he (Bashir) kept talking to Salva Kiir almost every day, and he’s capable to find a way to stop this war. I’m sure of that,” Bilal said.
In addition, Bilal said Bashir has other advantages that other IGAD leaders do not have, including his neutrality in the conflict.
“The role of Sudan, actually among IGAD presidents, is a major one putting in mind that we were one country; we know the two parties; we know the tribes [to help] make Sudan and Bashir to find a way out of this conflict,” Bilal said.
Bilal said Uganda’s intervention in the South Sudan conflict means one of the parties might not accept President Yoweri Museveni as one of the peace facilitators.
“Uganda’s armed forces have taken [the] side of Salva Kiir and they have got their troops there and cannot be one of the facilitators. The other party will not accept that. But, Bashir has no troops there; he doesn’t want this war,” Bilal said.
He said if the obstacle to peace in South Sudan is for Kiir to release the detainees, then all IGAD leaders should pressure him to do so.