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Cross-border fighting seems abating between Sudan, South Sudan

04-26-2012 16:36 BJT

KHARTOUM, April 25 (Xinhua) -- People living in the bordering areas between Sudan and South Sudan had a day of relative peace without shelling and bombing on Wednesday, something rare since the two countries were engaged in cross-border fighting over oil disputes.

South Sudan announced Wednesday its decision to release 13 Sudanese soldiers, who were captured during the battles of Heglig during April 10-15.

Army spokesman Philip Aguer said the deal had been brokered by Egypt during its foreign minister's visit to both countries earlier this month and these prisoners of war would be flown back to Khartoum via Cairo.

Egyptian Foreign Ministry confirmed later Wednesday the 13 Sudanese soldiers had arrived in Cairo and would soon be sent to Khartoum.

The move, seen as a positive step in easing escalating tensions between the two sides, came after repeated calls by the international community for Sudan and its newly-independent neighbor to halt hostilities and return to the negotiating table.

As an active player mediating between the two sides, China said Wednesday it would send a special representative to visit the two countries.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said Zhong Jianhua, special representative of the Chinese government on African affairs, will soon visit Sudan and South Sudan to promote dialogue and negotiations between the two countries.

Liu reiterated China's concerns regarding tension between both countries and called on them to "realize a peaceful coexistence in order to achieve common development."

Chinese ambassadors to Sudan and South Sudan, as well as China's permanent mission to the United Nations, have been mediating between the two sides through multiple means, he added.

According to Liu, South Sudanese President Salva Kiir Mayardit has cut short his China visit, which started on April 23 and was originally scheduled to last until April 28.

The African Union (AU), which has also been engaged in brokering a peace deal between Sudan and South Sudan, presented a seven-point roadmap aiming at a cessation of hostilities and urged the two sides to restart talks within two weeks.

The AU also urged the two neighbors to withdraw troops from the disputed border region and stop supporting rebel groups in the other nation.

In another related development, the United Nations said it would open a new refugee camp in northern Kenya in case there is an influx of Sudanese and South Sudanese escaping conflicts between their two countries.

The Kakuma camp, located in Kenya's arid north near the South Sudan and with a hosting capacity of 100,000 refugees, could soon be full as it receives on average 100 refugees daily.

Its current population stands at 94,000, according to the U.N. officials.

Situations in the bordering areas between Sudan and South Sudan have turned especially volatile since mid April when firing intensified between the two sides surrounding the oil-rich Heglig region, which is claimed by both countries.

The two sides ended their decade-long civil war and forged a unity government in 2005 and South Sudan split from Sudan in July 2011 following an independence referendum.

However, the two sides have failed reaching agreements on a bunch of critical issues such as border demarkation in some areas and also the distribution of oil wealth.

Faced with mounting international pressure and the prospect of a full-scale war, South Sudan started to withdraw troops from the Heglig region. An army spokesperson said the withdrawal was completed on April 23.

Sudan said its military had killed 938 soldiers of Sudan People's Liberation Army -- South Sudan's army -- and Darfur rebel Justice and Equality Movement during the 10-day battle to restore the Heglig oil area.

Editor:Wang Lingfei |Source: Xinhua

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