Washington — U.S. Special Envoy Princeton Lyman says Sudan and South Sudan are seeking a diplomatic resolution to disputed borders and other issues related to oil production in disputed areas, and a number of major international diplomatic activities are underway to defuse the tense situation.
"We are, of course, dealing with a very, very serious crisis between Sudan and South Sudan, one in which armed clashes are taking place, and a major event took place a few days ago with South Sudan's occupation of the Heglig area" that is in a disputed region between the two African nations, Lyman said during a teleconference briefing with Washington journalists April 20. Both sides are mindful of international pressure to avoid an escalation of violence.
South Sudan has withdrawn its forces from Heglig within the past day, according to published news reports and statements by diplomats at the United Nations.
In July 2011, South Sudan became independent of Sudan in the culmination of a peace initiative that ended a 22-year civil war. The Comprehensive Peace Agreement, which ended the conflict in 2005, did not address internal matters in Sudan's border states of Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile. Lyman said the Sudanese government must address those concerns with the people of those two border states to end the conflict there.
Lyman, U.S. special envoy for Sudan and South Sudan, said from Khartoum that after meeting with government and political party leaders there and in Juba he is convinced both nations are looking for a way out of the crisis, though each has different approaches. The international community has reacted swiftly and is unified in trying to thwart further violence. Lyman said the U.N. Security Council met in a crucial session April 19 in New York, and the African Union Peace and Security Council will meet in the coming week. In addition, the Arab League, at the request of Sudan, will hold an emergency meeting in Cairo in the coming week to discuss ways to resolve the conflict.
Susan Rice, the U.S. permanent representative to the United Nations, told reporters during a brief press conference April 19 at U.N. headquarters that the Security Council has said plainly that "the violence needs to stop without preconditions; both sides need to return to the negotiating table."
"We strongly condemned the violence that has erupted, the resumption of hostilities on the border, in particular the occupation of Heglig," Rice said. She is the current president of the U.N. Security Council, which rotates among the 15 council members each month. Rice said the U.N. Security Council has called for South Sudan to remove its military forces from Heglig, and for Sudan to stop aerial bombardment and incursions into South Sudan as well as many other instances of border violence.
Lyman said that while there is ample international activity to seek a peaceful resolution, "that doesn't mean this is going to be easy. Emotions are running very, very high."