, KHARTOUM, Apr 28 – Sudan on Saturday ruled out UN Security Council involvement in efforts to end weeks of border clashes with South Sudan, which said it repelled an attack by Khartoum-backed rebels.
“Sudan confirms that it rejects any efforts to disturb the African Union role and take the situation between Sudan and South Sudan to the UN Security Council,” Foreign Minister Ali Karti said after a month of deadly clashes which have raised fears of a wider war.
The African Union itself, in a decision last Tuesday, asked the Security Council to endorse its demand that the two Sudans halt hostilities in 48 hours, start talks within two weeks and complete a peace accord in three months.
But Karti – while expressing full confidence in the AU’s role – said in a statement that Security Council involvement would “give priority to a political position which was announced before and has a hidden agenda.”
He did not elaborate.
The South Sudanese army said on Saturday it had repelled an attack by rebels backed by Sudan outside Malakal, capital of the South’s Upper Nile State.
“It was Sudan-supported militias that attacked SPLA (South Sudan army) positions” on Friday, Colonel Philip Aguer told AFP. He said his forces repulsed the attack, with an unknown number of casualties.
But the rebels claimed in a statement that the “South Sudan Democratic Army (SSDA) launched Operation Ending Corruption and surrounded Malakal… and captured its surroundings.”
Aguer said South Sudan’s forces had detained three rebel fighters and one vehicle.
The Security Council on Thursday started talks on a resolution that could allow sanctions against Sudan and South Sudan if they do not meet the AU demands to end their fighting.
A resolution drafted by the United States backs the AU decision and calls for the two sides to “immediately” halt hostilities and pull their forces back into their own territory.
The text says the Security Council would review the rivals’ implementation of AU demands and could “take appropriate additional measures” under Article 41 of Chapter VII of the UN charter that allows for sanctions but not military force.
On Tuesday, the AU’s security body adopted a roadmap calling for an end to fighting, including aerial bombardments.
“Since they (Sudan) cannot bomb us, they are arming and sending militias and mercenaries now,” South Sudan government spokesman Barnaba Marial Benjamin said.
The roadmap also urged both sides to withdraw troops from the other’s territory, stop supporting rebel groups and refrain from making “inflammatory” public statements.
Sudanese warplanes staged a cross-border raid on Unity State on Wednesday, the South’s army alleged.
There have been repeated international demands for an end to Sudan’s air strikes on the South.
Khartoum says the South’s continued support for rebels inside Sudan undermines the north’s stability, despite international appeals for it to stop.
Both nations have denied backing rebels on each other’s territory.
South Sudan broke away from Sudan in July last year after a peace deal ended one of Africa’s longest civil wars, which killed about two million people.
Tensions have risen over a series of unresolved issues including the border, the future of disputed territories and oil.
“The terrible lessons of war seem to have been forgotten already,” said Desmond Tutu, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate who chairs a group of independent global leaders called The Elders.
In a statement on Friday they urged “meaningful dialogue” as the only way forward.
“The Elders believe that the possibility of a strong and mutually beneficial relationship between Sudan and South Sudan still exists,” they said.
In the most serious unrest since the South’s independence, Juba’s troops occupied Sudan’s main oil region of Heglig for 10 days.
Sudan declared on April 20 that its army had forced the Southern soldiers out of Heglig, but the South said it withdrew of its own accord.
Each side blames the other for damaging the oil facility.
“There is mounting evidence that the withdrawal was due to a mixture of fierce diplomatic pressure and military losses following a heavy bombing campaign by SAF on SPLA positions in and around the town,” said the Small Arms Survey, a Swiss-based independent research project.