6 January 2014

South Sudan: Sudan's President Bashir Visits South Sudan Monday

Sudanese President Omar Al Bashir is to hold talks with his South Sudanese counterpart, Salva Kiir, Monday in Juba, and Sudan's Minister of Information said he can be a good mediator in the South Sudan conflict.

Ahmed Bilal said Bashir knows both Kiir and former vice president Riek Machar and can be influential in the ongoing peace negotiations.

He said Khartoum does not support any party in the conflict because to do so would hurt "the good relations" it has had with Juba.

Bilal said Bashir believes that, given the fragility of South Sudan as the world's youngest nation, negotiation, not violence, is the only way to resolve the ongoing conflict.

"Since the first day of the event last month in South Sudan, the president continuously kept contacting his brother there, President Salva Kiir. And, we are very anxious and worried about what is going on in South Sudan because this war affects greatly Sudan," he said.

Bilal said, if the current conflict is not brought to a quick end, it could destroy every chance of successfully concluding bilateral negotiations that were going on between Sudan and South Sudan.

"As you remember, we have reached a bunch of agreements with South Sudan and we are about to start implementing these agreements. And now, the war affects these agreements. We have contacts with President Salva Kiir and also contacts with Riek Machar. We know the two men very closely, and Sudan can be a good mediator in solving this problem in the south," Bilal said.

He described the South Sudan conflict as a "private" event that Khartoum does not want to be a part of.

"We cannot actually be part of that because this affects the good relations we have with South Sudan. This is event is a private event. So, we cannot at all be part of supporting this or against that. It's not wise for us to do that," Bilal said.

Bilal said Khartoum supports the ongoing peace talks in Ethiopia's capital under the sponsorship of the Inter-governmental Authority on Development (IGAD).

"We have actually our representative in Addis Ababa among the IGAD members. And, we are supporting this IGAD effort to reach peace. But, now I think President Bashir on his visit can make the two parties even closer," Bilal said.

He said negotiation, not violence, is the only way to resolve the ongoing conflict. Bilal appealed to neighboring countries to resist taking sides in the South Sudan conflict.

"The South is even more fragile, unity is also very fragile. So, the effort should be toward negotiation and peace," Bilal said.

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