ADDIS ABABA - South Sudan has proposed setting up a large demilitarized zone along its border with rival Sudan - a suggestion that Sudan quickly rejected.
The proposal came Wednesday at African Union-mediated talks aimed at settling disputes and reducing tension between the neighbors, who have fought clashes along the border.
South Sudan's Foreign Minister Nhial Deng said the proposal calls for both sides to withdraw all forces 10 kilometers from the border.
"Basically what we have said is let us demilitarize all the disputed areas, because if you demilitarize all the disputed areas you actually enhance the prospects of avoiding any prospect of conflict," said Deng.
But Sudanese delegation spokesman Omer Dahab dismissed the idea. Speaking to reporters, he noted the zone would include the Heglig oil field, which Sudan recovered after South Sudanese forces occupied the area in April.
"The inclusion of Heglig in the new South Sudan map will constitute, legally speaking, a threat to use of force and it is not helping us to reach this negotiated settlement to which we aspire," said Dahab.
Asked about Heglig, South Sudan cabinet member Deng Alor told VOA that Sudan could use the oil field under United Nations supervision.
Multiple rounds of talks in Ethiopia's capital, Addis Ababa, have yet to yield significant progress.
Sudan and South Sudan are at odds over border, oil and citizenship issues stemming from the South's independence last July. Recent border clashes have raised fears the countries will slide into all-out war.