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Obama to Sudan, South Sudan: Conflict Is Not Inevitable

  • Kent Klein

President Barack Obama is appealing to the governments and people of Sudan and South Sudan to avoid a return to war. The president called for peaceful negotiations, in a video message posted Friday on the Internet site YouTube.

After more than a week of military skirmishes along the border between the two Sudans, President Obama called on the people of both nations to turn away from further armed conflict.

"It does not have to be this way. Conflict is not inevitable. You still have a choice," he said. "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."

Obama said there is no military solution to the conflict. He called on the presidents of the two countries to have the courage to return to the negotiating table.

"The government of Sudan must stop its military actions, including aerial bombardments. It must give aid workers the access they need to save lives. And it must end its support for armed groups inside the South," he said. "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."

Sudan's government says its military has now taken control of oil fields in the disputed area of Heglig.

South Sudan seized the oil fields on April 10, sparking fears of an all-out war. The government in Juba says its forces will soon be completely out of Heglig, but the status of the area, and of other contested regions, should be determined by international arbitration.

President Obama warned that the constant threat of war is hampering development in both countries.

"You will never be at peace if your neighbor feels threatened. You will never see development and progress if your neighbor refuses to be your partner in trade and commerce," he said.

Sudan and South Sudan have disagreed over borders, oil and citizenship since the South became an independent nation last July.

North and south Sudan fought a 21-year civil war, in which about two million people were killed.

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