, KHARTOUM, Apr 11 – Sudan’s parliament on Wednesday called a halt to negotiations with South Sudan and ordered its delegation home, official radio reported.
“Parliament decided to stop negotiations and withdraw the delegation immediately from Addis Ababa,” Radio Omdurman reported after a second day of renewed clashes between the two nations in an oil-rich region along the disputed border.
Legislators also announced a “mobilisation and alert” of the population, the radio report said, although President Omar al-Bashir had already issued a decree forming a high-level committee for mobilisation on March 26.
That same day a series of border clashes began, sparking international fears of a return to all-out war.
The committee was tasked with preparing training camps for the paramilitary People’s Defence Force, official media said at the time.
South Sudan’s parliamentary speaker on Wednesday urged lawmakers there to mobilise people to defend the fledgling nation in case of all-out attack by Khartoum.
The South became independent last July after an overwhelming “yes” vote at the end of Africa’s longest civil war.
It was not immediately clear why parliament recalled negotiators, as African Union mediators are not currently holding talks in the Ethiopian capital.
Negotiators from Juba and Khartoum failed to sign an agreement on security after the latest AU-mediated negotiations concluded last week in Addis Ababa.
Lead mediator Thabo Mbeki denied that negotiations had reached an impasse.
South Sudan’s head negotiator Pagan Amum accused the Khartoum delegation of walking out of the talks, saying “war mongering” prevented them from signing the agreement.
Sudan rejected the accusation that it refused to sign a deal, and said it had to return home for consultations before committing to the accord.
On Monday – the same day the latest outbreak of fighting began in the oil-rich Heglig border region – Bashir said Khartoum remained committed to negotiations.
He said this was despite the South’s involvement “directly” in attacks against Sudan.
Each side has blamed the other for starting the clashes.
“The main thing is to solve the security issues,” which are fundamental to resolving disputes over the border and economic matters, Bashir said.
When South Sudan separated it took about 75 percent of oil production, but it still needs the north’s pipeline and port to export it.
The two sides have been unable to resolve a dispute over fees for the South’s use of the infrastructure, which led Juba in January to shut crude production after Khartoum began seizing Southern oil in lieu of compensation.
Since then there were moves towards warmer relations between the two sides but analysts said elements in Khartoum, as well as the South, opposed a rapprochement and suggested the flare-up over Heglig was an effort to sabotage improved relations.
After the clashes, Sudan suspended a planned April 3 summit between Bashir and the South’s President Salva Kiir. But following talks with the two leaders late last week Mbeki said the summit would proceed, after “necessary preparation.”