NAIROBI, Apr 19 – East Africa’s main diplomatic body on Thursday called on foes Sudan and South Sudan to end their bitter border conflict, as fighting spread to new areas along their contested frontier.,
The Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), of which Khartoum and Juba are members, said there was “grave concern about the escalating conflict” and called on both sides to “exercise maximum restraint.”
“Both states know too well from (the) recent past that a return to war can only lead to loss of life and destruction,” it said in a statement, calling for all troops to withdraw out of the battle zone.
IGAD mediated the peace talks that ended Sudan’s 1983-2005 civil war in which some two million people died, and said it was ready to provide “all possible assistance to maintain peace and stability.”
Sudan has threatened to topple the Southern government after clashes that erupted last month, and escalated last week with South Sudan’s seizure of the disputed Heglig oilfield on April 10, with waves of aerial bombardment by Sudan.
The United Nations, the United States and the European Union have criticised the South’s occupation of Heglig but have equally denounced Sudan’s air strikes against the South.
There are widespread fears the fighting will spread. It is already the worst violence since South Sudan won independence in July after two decades of war.