Obama appeals to Sudanese to end violence | News | DW | 21.04.2012
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Obama appeals to Sudanese to end violence

US President Obama has called on the governments in Khartoum and Juba to cease fighting and start negotiations. South Sudan has started withdrawing its troops from the disputed area.

US President Barack Obama has issued a videotaped statement calling for an end to fighting between Sudan and South Sudan. He called on South Sudan to withdraw its troops from the Heglig oilfield, which, as stated by UN chief Ban Ki-moon, is recognized as part of Sudan's territory.

"The government of South Sudan must end its support for armed groups inside Sudan and it must cease its military action across the border," Obama said in the message.

He also reiterated calls from Ban Ki-moon for Sudan to stop its air raids on South Sudanese territory.

"We know what needs to happen - the government of Sudan must stop its military actions, including aerial bombardments," Obama said.

"The presidents of Sudan and South Sudan must have the courage to return to the table and negotiate and resolve these issues peacefully."

Three-day withdrawal

Reacting to demands from the international community, South Sudan had started withdrawing its soldiers.

"Our troops are still withdrawing; it will take three days," Information Minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin told news agency AFP on Saturday, adding, "We are responding to the request of the UN Security Council and others, as a member of the UN and the African Union."

Plans for the withdrawal were announced on Friday, with a spokesman for the South Sudanese military stressing that Juba was not giving up its claim to the oil field.

"It doesn't mean we are abandoning the area. If our territory is being occupied we will not wait for the international community," Colonel Philip Aguer said, adding that South Sudanese forces would "be there to react to any incursions and react if bombardment doesn't stop."

Worst violence since civil war

Border clashes escalated last week, with Khartoum targeting the south in airstrikes and Juba seizing the Heglig oil hub on April 10, sparking fears of an all-out war.

The recent spate of bloodshed is the first armed dispute since South Sudan seceded from Sudan last year. It is also the worst violence the region has seen since the South won independence after a civil war that lasted from 1983 to 2005 and killed around 2 million people.

Since the fighting began, oil production at Heglig has been shut, and facilities there are leaking. The two governments accuse each other of damaging the infrastructure. Oil production at Heglig accounted for about half of the North's production.

sb/ncy (AFP, AP, dpa)