The U.S. envoy to Sudan is on his way to the country for talks aimed at ending hostilities between forces from northern and southern Sudan as the south prepares to declare independence next week.
A State Department statement Saturday says Princeton Lyman will attend South Sudan's independence ceremony on July 9 in the new capital, Juba.
The statement says Lyman heads first first to Addis Ababa, in nearby Ethiopia, where talks between northern and southern Sudan are ongoing as fighting rages in border areas, including Southern Kordofan and the oil-rich Abyei region.
The State Department says Lyman will support efforts in Addis Ababa to negotiate an end to the violence. Lyman will also attempt to broker agreements on unresolved issues including resource sharing, disputed border areas, and citizenship, all crucial to the future of the relationship between Sudan and South Sudan.
Lyman, the top U.S. diplomat for the region, is also scheduled to visit Khartoum, the capital of Sudan, to meet with officials there.
Friday, Lyman said the process of dividing Sudan into two independent states is “still fundamentally on track” despite the territorial and economic disputes. He said the political atmosphere surrounding the birth of the new state is not as promising as it seemed when the southern Sudanese voted to become independent six months ago, but he says he expects the north and south to be able to forge workable, if not cordial, relations.
But the same day, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir said he had ordered his northern army to keep fighting in the volatile Southern Kordofan state for as long as rebels are operating there.
Weeks of fighting in Southern Kordofan and neighboring Abyei have led to a mass exodus of people and raised fears of a new Sudanese civil war.
North and South Sudan fought a 21-year civil war that ended with a 2005 peace deal. South Sudan voted to split from the north in a referendum in January.