South Sudan accused neighboring Sudan of carrying out air and artillery attacks on the eve of scheduled peace talks.
Sudan bombed Northern Barh el-Ghazal state today in violation of a May 2 United Nations Security Council resolution, South Sudan’s chief negotiator, Pagan Amum, said as he prepared to fly to Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital, for the start of African Union-sponsored talks tomorrow. Ten civilians were killed in the attacks, government spokesman Barnaba Marial Benjamin said.
“Today as we are leaving to the negotiations, the government of Sudan is attacking South Sudan,” Amum told reporters at the airport in the capital, Juba.
The UN Security Council approved the resolution after the countries came close to all-out war along their disputed border. Since South Sudan gained independence in July, negotiations have failed to yield agreements on oil-revenue sharing, citizenship and border demarcation.
South Sudan, which gained control of about three-quarters of the formerly united country’s crude production, shut down output in January after accusing Sudan of stealing $815 million of its oil. Sudan said it confiscated the crude to make up for unpaid fees for use of a pipeline and a port on the Red Sea that the south needs to export its petroleum.
Sudan’s military used Antonov planes, MiG jet fighters, helicopter gunships and artillery in today’s attacks, Philip Aguer, spokesman for South Sudan’s army, told reporters.
“Maybe they want to spoil the peace process,” Benjamin said.
Amum said he was confident the negotiations due to start tomorrow had a chance of success.
“Now, we are actually more optimistic than any other time before,” he said. “There is an international backing; there is a strong will by the Security Council to support achievement of peace and a resolution of all the issues.”
Amum accused Sudan of repeatedly violating the UN resolution by bombing South Sudan.
He urged the Security Council to “force the government of Sudan to withdraw its forces from Abyei.”
Amum said South Sudan accepted the African Union’s so-called road map to peace, which was endorsed by the Security Council and gives the countries three months to conclude the negotiations.