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Foreign Powers Press for Sudan Talks

A UNMIS peacekeeper patrol in an APC in Abyei, Sothern Sudan, March 11, 2011
A UNMIS peacekeeper patrol in an APC in Abyei, Sothern Sudan, March 11, 2011

The United States, Norway and Britain have called for talks to resume in Sudan so that plans can move ahead for the south’s independence later this year.

The southern Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) called off talks with the Khartoum-based government on Saturday. It said the ruling National Congress Party (NCP), based in the north, has destabilized the south by arming rebel groups.

But the Sudan Troika, which is made up of the U.S., Norway, and Britain, said Tuesday it’s critical that talks go ahead. The foreign powers said both sides should take steps against alleged actions that destabilize each other’s governments and territories.

Khalid al Mubarak is a spokesperson for the Sudanese embassy in London. He says the claims made by the SPLM against the north are unfounded.

"The collapse of the south is not in the interest of the north," said al Mubarak. "If the south collapses, if it becomes a failed state before the declaration of independence, the north will pay the price in displaced people, in instability. The international community will also pay the price. So nobody is interested in that."

Southern Sudanese voted earlier this year for south Sudan to secede and form its own country. The split is set to take place in July.

But there are still negotiations that must take place, with two big issues being border demarcation and how to share oil revenues.

Southern Sudan’s ruling party says it has documents to prove that Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir’s government supplied weapons to militias in the south.

But al Mubarak says there is no evidence of northern interference in the south. Southern politicians, he says, are trying to blame the north for their own internal problems.

"What we have seen so far is provocation and a desire to export the problems of the south to the north," added al Mubarak.

Hundreds of people have been killed in recent weeks in the south and along the border with the north.

Fouad Hikmat, a Sudan advisor with the International Crisis Group, says the situation is worrying.

"The only way forward is to sit on the table and negotiate the way forward," said Hikmat.

He says neither the north nor the south, which were at civil war for over two decades until 2005, want a return to that level of violence.

"Both of them should recognize the graveness of the issues," added Hikmat. "This is very, very serious. And I don't think the SPLM wants to get into a big fight because they have got more challenges preparing their country to be independent in a couple of months. And the NCP have got very serious issues also to do with the north."

99 percent of southern Sudanese voted in favor of independence during the January referendum.