Khartoum — President Omer Al-Bashir of Sudan told a visiting Egyptian diplomat on Sunday that his country is not prepared to resume negotiations with neighboring South Sudan unless the latter does not withdraw its troops from Heglig.
Sudan has announced suspension of talks with South Sudan since the latter's army, known as SPLA, wrestled control of the disputed area of Heglig on Wednesday, 11 April, following the worst fighting between the two countries since the south seceded to declare an independence state last year.
The military confrontations around Heglig have sparked international concerns and dealt a serious blow to already-stalled negotiations between Khartoum and Juba over partition-related issues, including oil exports, security, borders and citizenship,
In a meeting with Egypt's foreign minister Mohamed Amru Kamil, who is visiting Khartoum in a bid to contain tension between Sudan and South Sudan, Al-Bashir said that Khartoum would not negotiate with Juba unless the SPLA pulls out of Heglig.
Al-Bashir stressed that Sudan reserves the right to respond to the occupation of Heglig in any manner that guarantees its security, sovereignty and stability, as reported by Sudan's official news agency SUNA.
SUNA also said that Kamil had conveyed a message to Al-Bashir from Field Marshal Tantawi, the Head of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces which has been ruling Egypt since the fall of Mubarak regime last year.
Egypt's top diplomat minister explained that his country's efforts do not interfere with those of the African Union (AU) which has been facilitating talks between Sudan and South Sudan.
Kamil further added that he came to Khartoum to listen to the views of Sudan before moving to visit Juba today to meet South Sudanese President Salva Kiir.
Kiir and other South Sudanese officials have indicated no objection to resuming talks with Khartoum but demanded guarantees for the withdrawal of the SPLA from Heglig, including the deployment of UN troops in the area and an agreement on cessation of hostilities.
Khartoum, for its part, accuses South Sudan of trying to use Heglig as a bargaining chip to bring Khartoum to withdraw from Abyei, another disputed region that has been occupied by Sudan since May last year.
Meanwhile, Iran has added its voice to calls urging Sudan and South Sudan to exercise self-restraint and Juba to withdraw troops from Heglig.
Ramin Mehmanparast, spokesman of Iran's Foreign Ministry, said on Sunday that Tehran is urging South Sudan to withdraw forces from Heglig "as soon as possible and unconditionally."
The Iranian official asked both countries to return to negotiations to resolve their disputes peacefully, and advised that "resolving the tension between the two states does not have a military solution."
South Sudan said it occupied Heglig in response to attacks by Sudanese forces. Juba also disputed Sudan's ownership of the oil-producing area which has been placed outside of the boundaries of Abyei under a 2008 ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration.
Heglig is vital to Sudan for it contains oilfields accounting for almost half of the country's daily output of 115,000 barrels a day.