, WASHINGTON, Apr 2 – US President Barack Obama on Monday urged South Sudan in a telephone call with the young nation’s leader to show restraint following heavy border fighting with Khartoum’s forces.
In a call to US-backed South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir, Obama “expressed concern about the growing tensions” between the two nations including border clashes and bloodshed in Sudan’s Southern Kordofan state.
“President Obama underscored the importance of avoiding unilateral actions, and asked President Kiir to ensure that South Sudan’s military exercises maximum restraint and is not involved in or supporting fighting along the border, particularly in Southern Kordofan,” a White House statement said.
Obama pressed the two nations to reach an agreement on oil production. South Sudan took the drastic decision to halt its production in January after Sudan started to seize crude due to a payment dispute.
Obama also voiced hope that Kiir would soon meet with Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir after last week’s clashes prompted Khartoum to call off a summit.
“President Obama welcomed President Kiir’s commitment to moving forward with a summit and to finding peaceful solutions for Sudan and South Sudan,” the White House said.
Bloody clashes including airstrikes, tanks and heavy artillery — the worst violence since South Sudan’s independence in July — had raised international concerns the former civil war foes could return to all-out war.
Fears are also growing about food shortages in Southern Kordofan, where humanitarian groups say a relentless bombing campaign by Khartoum has severely hampered agriculture.
Sudan has pinned the blame for the crisis on South Sudan, saying that it is arming ethnic insurgents in Southern Kordofan who are affiliated to what is now Juba’s leadership.