South Sudan Cancels Direct Talks with Sudan after 'Air Raid'

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South Sudan said Saturday it was cancelling planned face-to-face peace talks with Sudan after accusing Khartoum of launching a new air raid on its territory.

Sudan denied bombing its southern neighbor, saying it had only targeted Darfuri rebels inside its own territory.

"We were left with no choice but to suspend our direct bilateral talks with Sudan," the spokesman for Juba's delegation at the talks in Addis Ababa, Atif Kiir, said.

"You cannot sit with them to negotiate when they are bombing our territory," he added.

"The only negotiations that will happen now will happen through the panel," he said, referring to an African Union mediation panel conducting the talks in the Ethiopian capital.

The negotiations to settle disputes stemming from the South's independence in July last year stalled in April, but resumed in May.

"There was bombing yesterday morning at a place called Rubaker," in northern Bahr el Ghazal, South Sudan's military spokesman Philip Aguer told AFP earlier, adding that "this might have implications because maybe that is the intention of Sudan to bomb us and to stop talking."

Aguer said eight bombs were dropped by Sudanese army Antonov planes.

"Two civilians were wounded -- a man and a woman. They were sleeping in their houses in the villages of Wuer Kil and Wuer Puech", he said.

"Last time they wanted to break off talks in Addis Ababa, they bombed us ... that was on March 26" at a military base in oil-producing Unity state, he added.

"SAF (Sudanese Armed Forces) didn't violate South Sudanese territory," Khartoum's official SUNA news agency quoted one of Sudan's negotiators to the African Union-led talks, Omar Dahab, as saying.

"What happened is the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) rebels tried to attack Sudan by coming through South Sudanese territory and SAF responded to them, but inside Sudan," he said.

Dahab added that his team "is ready to continue direct negotiations with South Sudan's delegation."

A new round of talks is due to begin Sunday at AU headquarters, a week after Sudanese President Omar al-Beshir and his South Sudanese counterpart Salva Kiir exchanged a symbolic handshake at a summit of the bloc.

Spokesman Kiir said there was "no reflection" of the mood set by the meeting of the two presidents, adding: "We are doing our best."

South Sudanese Communications Minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin commented, "There are people who don't want the talks within the Khartoum regime -- that's why they are bombing us."

The African Union's Peace and Security Council has urged Khartoum and Juba to settle their differences on oil and border demarcation before an August 2 deadline set by the United Nations.

Khartoum accuses South Sudan of backing a major insurgency in South Kordofan state, as well as in Blue Nile, and also of working with the JEM.

The South says it does not back the rebels but suspected JEM fighters were seen alongside its troops during the border fighting in April. The JEM denied involvement.

South Sudan accuses the north of backing insurgents in the South as well.

Earlier in July at the AU-led talks in Addis Ababa, Sudan and South Sudan agreed to a cessation of hostilities and a commitment to pursue peace, though they stopped short of signing a concrete deal.

Since border tensions escalated in late March, repeated claims of fighting have coincided with attempts to negotiate.

Decades of conflict between the mainly Arab and Muslim north and the black African south left millions dead.

Comments 2
Default-user-icon whynot (Guest) 21 July 2012, 16:58

the american imperialist zionist plan is to fragment the arab world, south sudan should never exist it's part of this plan

Default-user-icon Karolyn (Guest) 21 July 2012, 22:33

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