US envoy urges restraint in Sudan border row
DHAKA: The United States` special envoy to Sudan, Ambassador Princeton Lyman, has told Al Jazeera that neither Sudan nor South Sudan have "much of an appetite for war".
"Both their economies are suffering. Both their people are suffering. So, clearly, they have to get together for their own sakes to deal with several issues going on between them," Lyman said on Friday.
"When you talk to people behind the scenes, behind the rhetoric, neither side really wants to go back to all-out war. Neither side has the resources, [or] the will, to go into the kind of civil war they had before."
Lyman`s comments come a day after the UN Security Council began talks on a draft resolution that would call for sanctions against Sudan and South Sudan if they fail to meet African Union (AU) demands to end their border war.
The draft resolution, circulated by the US on Thursday, backs previously stated AU demands that include withdrawing troops from the disputed border region, starting negotiations within two weeks, and opening humanitarian access.
"The intention of the text was to provide swift and substantive support to the decisions of the African Union, in the form that the African Union requested," said Susan Rice, US ambassador to the UN.
"But there were some members who either need more time to get guidance from their capitals or who are sceptical of the wisdom of going directly to a resolution."
US special envoy to SudanAmbassador Princeton Lyman speak to Al Jazeera
Even so, reports of fighting renewed on Friday, with South Sudan claiming that Sudanese-backed rebel militia had attacked a town in South Sudan`s oil-producing Upper Nile state, threatening to broaden the conflict.
"A militia that is supported by the Sudanese Armed Forces attacked a place...near Malakal and the SPLA [South Sudanese army] has repulsed them," Philip Aguer, SPLA spokesman, said.
"There are no details on casualties, they are still being pursued," he said.
The latest reports of fighting came as British aid group Oxfam said that tens of thousands of refugees in South Sudan`s Jamam camp needed to be urgently moved to a new site to escape life-threatening water shortages and fatal diseases.
Alun McDonald, Oxfam`s spokesperson, said the boreholes that provide the water for the camp in South Sudan`s Upper Nile state can only serve 16,500 of the 37,000 refugees there.
Relief agencies also expect that more refugees fleeing the recent South Sudan and Sudan border conflict will be taking up residence in Jamam, he said.
On Thursday, Al Jazeera`s Kimberly Halkett, reporting from Washington, said a second day with no new attacks between the rival nations had given the US a sense of optimism that a firmly established 20km demilitarised border zone was possible.
Such a border zone "would begin to lay the groundwork for the governments of Khartoum and Juba to begin addressing the larger issue ... oil", she said.
In-depth coverage of North-South strife over border
However, Princeton Lyman, US special envoy to Sudan and South Sudan, told politicians on Capitol Hill on Thursday that such advances could only be made if the two nations took "a collaborative approach".
The US draft resolution came just days after the AU called on Sudan and South Sudan to withdraw their forces from Heglig, which the South had seized from Sudanese forces, and keep their troops within their respective borders.
The demand, made by the AU Peace and Security Council in a statement released after a council meeting late on Tuesday, came as South Sudan freed and handed 14 Sudanese prisoners of war to the International Committee of the Red Cross on Wednesday.
The AU also said the two neighbouring countries should stop issuing inflammatory statements and propaganda that could escalate the conflict.
Fighting along the 1,800km contested border in what was once Africa`s largest country erupted in late March
after Sudan and South Sudan failed to resolve a number of contentious issues including oil export fees and citizenship.
The skirmishes have threatened to escalate into a full-blown conflict, which neither can afford. Both economies have suffered from the shutdown of most of their oil production as a result of the conflict.
South Sudan seized the contested Heglig oilfield earlier this month, on which Sudan relied for about half its oil output,but withdrew after immense international pressure. Juba has since then accused Khartoum of launching air strikes on its territory, a charge Sudan denies.
China and the African Union have stepped up diplomatic efforts in the past week to try to bring the rivals back to the negotiating table.
BDST: 1242 HRS, APR 28, 2012
Edited by: Maria Salam, Asst Output Editor