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Sudan Cuts Off Talks With South Sudan

An aerial view of the Heglig oil processing facility in Sudan's South Kordofan state, June 2, 2010 (file photo).
An aerial view of the Heglig oil processing facility in Sudan's South Kordofan state, June 2, 2010 (file photo).

The Sudanese government has pulled out of negotiations with neighboring South Sudan after reports of recent clashes in a disputed oil-producing border area.

Sudanese Vice-President Al-Haj Adam Yusuf was quoted on state radio Wednesday accusing South Sudan of launching attacks in and around the Heglig oil field in Sudan's Southern Kordofan state.

Yusuf then said there will be no talks between the two Sudans as his government is now busy defending its borders.

Timeline of Events Since June 2011

  • June 5: Fighting escalates between Sudanese forces and southern elements ahead of southern secession.
  • July 9: South Sudan declares independence from north. Sudan recognizes its new neighbor.
  • July 22: U.N. claims strong evidence Sudan is committing atrocities in southern states, particularly against ethnic Nubas who backed south in 21-year civil war.
  • Oct. 5: U.N. urges two Sudans to pull forces from contested border region where fighting continues despite June 20 withdrawal agreement.
  • Oct. 9: Leaders of Sudan, South Sudan conclude two-day meeting with promise to negotiate resolution of issues involving citizenship, border territory and shared oil revenue.
  • Nov. 26: U.N. reports 76,000 people fled fighting along border region in the last three months, particularly in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile states.
  • Nov. 28: Sudan blocks South Sudan oil awaiting export in Port Sudan, claiming Juba did not paid enough in transit fees. Dispute leads South Sudan to halt oil production.
  • Feb. 10, 2012: Two Sudans sign "non-aggression pact" during African Union-mediated talks to ease tensions after both sides raise specter of war.
  • March 26: Countries' militaries clash along border near Sudanese-controlled town of Heglig. Fighting leads to cancellation of proposed presidential summit.
  • April 10, 2012: Countries exchange accusations of renewed attacks along border, near town Heglig oil field.
  • April 11, 2012: Sudan announces withdrawal from AU-mediated talks with South Sudan.

On Wednesday, Philip Aguer, spokesman for South Sudan’s military, known as SPLA or SPLM, denied reports of ongoing fighting, saying Sudanese Armed Forces, or SAF, are nowhere to be seen.

“SAF has left the area, has evacuated the area, and [the Southern Sudanese military] is in control of the area," he said.

Meanwhile, Rabie Abdul Atti, an adviser to Sudan's information minister, described what he referred to as the situation on the ground.

"The fighting now is going on and [Sudan's armed forces are] insisting also for [the Southern Sudanese military and government] to lose what they have gained by peace," he said. "They will lose it by war."

The Sudanese government Tuesday released a statement saying South Sudan's military “brutally attacked” Heglig and other areas of South Kordofan, and that "the government of Sudan announces it will oppose this flagrantly aggressive behavior by all legitimate ways and means."

South Sudan's military spokesman said the Sudanese government started it all.

"Yesterday when [South Sudan’s military] was attacked, we were fighting in self-defense, an instinct, requirement, of self-preservation," said Aguer. "We repulsed the attack."

The two armies have been clashing in Heglig and areas of South Kordofan for weeks, and both countries claim the area as their own.

Many fear that this latest tussle might lead to all-out war.

South Sudan achieved independence in July last year after many decades of bitter warfare between with the north, with much of fighting over access to oilfields.

The two countries then carried out negotiations over terms and conditions by which South Sudan would export oil through Sudan. In January, South Sudan shut down oil production throughout the country following an impasse in talks.

In recent weeks, South African President Thabo Mbeki -- representing the African Union -- has been meeting with officials of both governments in a bid to resolve the issues.

The African Union Wednesday issued a statement calling for the Sudans to exercise restraint, along with the unconditional and immediate withdrawal of South Sudan forces from Heglig.