ADDIS ABABA —
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says he is working with the African Union to end violence along the border between Sudan and South Sudan. America’s top diplomat met separately with Sudanese Foreign Minister Ali Ahmed Karti on the sidelines of the African Union summit in Ethiopia.
Kerry says Sudan and South Sudan "are in a very delicate place right now" and it is important for the international community to help both of them focus on "developing the future, not on fighting the issues of the past."
Long-standing disputes dominate tensions between the governments in Khartoum and Juba, including over the provinces of Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile, which remain in Sudan but where many people fought for years alongside those now in South Sudan.
"In South Kordofan and Blue Nile you have people who for a long time have felt that they want their secular governance and their identity respected. They don't want independence. They are not trying to break away from Sudan," said Kerry.
But he added that Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir is "trying to press on them through authoritarian means and through violence an adherence to a standard that they simply don't want to accept with respect to Islamism."
"What is critical here in my judgement is for President Bashir to respect what the people in South Kordofan and Blue Nile are trying to achieve."
That is complicated by South Sudan's support for some of the groups fighting there.
"And that makes the north feel like the south is instigating some of what is taking place. So we need to resolve those differences."
Kerry said he will soon name a special envoy for Sudan and South Sudan to replace Princeton Lyman, who helped negotiate the resumption of oil exports from South Sudan through Sudan.
Kerry says one of that new envoy's first priorities will be helping resolve the status of the oil-rich Abyei region, where there is a dispute over who is eligible to vote in a referendum on staying in Sudan or leaving to join South Sudan.
Abyei's vote was to have been held in conjunction with the broader 2011 referendum on South Sudan's independence but was delayed because of violence between more permanent, largely-ethnic Dinka residents and migrants who are mostly ethnic Miseria.
Photo Gallery: Kerry in Middle East, Africa Trip