South Sudan on Sunday accused Sudan of launching fresh attacks along their disputed border, stalling peace talks in Addis Ababa, a senior South Sudanese official said.
“We are here … to attempt to make peace; the Government of Sudan is waging war on South Sudan,” Juba’s chief negotiator Pagan Amum told journalists.
“The government of Sudan is bombing us as we speak,” said Amum, who reported fresh battles in the towns of Manga and Panakuach in Unity State, where fighting broke out last Monday.
He said talks were stalled after the North accused the South of invading its territory, which Amum said was “categorically untrue”.
Amum added the North was planning further attacks along the disputed border.
“We are privy to intelligence that Sudan is planning an imminent invasion of Unity State,” he told reporters, adding that South Sudan would exercise its right to defend its territory if necessary.
“The government of South Sudan has the sovereign right to protect itself,” he said.
Delegations from both countries are in the Ethiopian capital to discuss security issues. By the end of the first day of negotiations on Saturday, security talks between the lead negotiators had not yet started.
Amum said the North failed to send the head of its security delegation.
“The meeting was supposed to take place yesterday but he has not come for reasons known to them,” Amum said, referring to the chief of Khartoum’s security delegation. He accused the North of trying to “derail” the peace talks.
Ongoing peace efforts were threatened by fresh violence in Unity State this week, prompting Khartoum to call off a meeting of the South’s President Salva Kiir with his northern counterpart Omar al-Bashir that had been scheduled for April 3 in Juba.
South Sudan’s foreign minister said Kiir was willing to meet Bashir despite this week’s incidents and said they would not object to meeting in another location.
“If [al-Bashir] has any objection to meeting in any place other than Juba, we have no problem meeting him anywhere else,” Nhial Deng Nhial said.
When asked whether negotiations are slated to proceed, Amum said only that his government “calls on the parties” to return to the negotiating table to seek a negotiated peaceful solution to the conflict [and] conclude an immediate ceasefire.” — Sapa-AFP