- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Obama administration and the United Nations on Wednesday urged the governments of Sudan and South Sudan to halt the fighting that has pushed the two nations to the brink of an all-out war.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the United States is “deeply disturbed by the escalating hostilities” and “condemns offensive military action by either side.”

South Sudan’s army on Wednesday attacked and seized oil fields in Heglig, which are claimed by Sudan. This attack was “an act which goes beyond self-defense and has increased tensions between Sudan and South Sudan to dangerous levels,” Ms. Nuland said.

Sudan’s government vowed to use “all legitimate means” to retake the oil fields and has warned of “destruction” in South Sudan.

Mrs. Nuland also condemned Sudan’s armed forces for continuing its aerial bombardment inside South Sudan.

Both governments must end hostilities, withdraw forces that are deployed across the border recognized by a 2005 peace treaty and cease all support for armed insurrections, she added.

Sudan withdrew from talks with South Sudan in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, over what it described as aggression by the south in Heglig.

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir was scheduled to meet his South Sudanese counterpart Salva Kiir Mayardit in the south’s capital Juba on April 3. That summit fell apart following the outbreak of fresh hostilities between the two nations.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon with Mr. Mayardit on Wednesday and demanded an immediate de-escalation of the situation.

The de-escalation is the “immediate priority” ahead of any discussion on the causes of the conflict, Mr. Ban told Mr. Mayardit, according to U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky.

Mr. Ban also urged Mr. Mayardit to consider holding the presidential summit with Gen. Bashir as a confidence-building measure.

The U.N. Security Council recently warned that the fighting could reignite war between the two nations.

Late on Tuesday, Mr. Ban spoke with Sudan’s permanent representative to the United Nations and urged Sudan to exercise maximum restraint and avoid further military action.

He also discussed the situation with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi on Wednesday.

South Sudan became independent from Sudan in July last year, six years after a peace agreement ended decades of civil war that claimed the lives of around 2 million people.

• Ashish Kumar Sen can be reached at asen@washingtontimes.com.

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