It was feared that even as the borders between South Sudan and Sudan was drawn, that conflicts over the precise borders would continue to persist. This emerged in particular over the South Kordofan province, the only oil-producing province remaining in Sudan proper as the rest were seceded with South Sudan. The South Sudan government claims the Sudan government has been overstepping its boundaries with a military presence in this area which it says is intimidation of its new independence and of the Nuba people who the SPLA-government in South Sudan say are oppressed by Khartoum.
In late March Sudanese fighters launched air raids as tensions grew over the region. South Sudan responded by moving ground forces into the Heglig oil field and occupying it from Sudan, interestingly drawing a rebuke from the UN who had always been on South Sudan's side. A timeline of the conflicts in the past few weeks (from the same article):
Sudan is currently moving forces to retake the oilfield.
Sudan's armed forces are on the outskirts of Heglig town and are advancing toward the settlement, which was occupied by South Sudan this week, a Sudanese military spokesman said.
"We are now on the outskirts of Heglig town," Al-Sawarmi Khalid Saad told reporters in Khartoum. "The armed forces are advancing toward Heglig town ... the situation in Heglig will be resolved within hours."
He added that South Sudan had tried but failed to control "all of South Kordofan state."
Al Jazeera's Nazanine Moshiri, reporting from Juba, the capital of South Sudan, said that the army from Khartoum is advancing on Heglig town. "The South Sudanese military spokesperson told us that the Sudanese are around 30 km from Heglig, and if they do try and take it the South Sudanese have said they will defend themselves."
"This could end up becoming a full-blown conflict."
World powers have urged restraint after the latest round of heavy fighting that broke out on Tuesday with waves of aerial bombardment hitting the South whose troops seized the Heglig oil region from Khartoum's army.
South Sudan seized the Heglig oilfield near the border on Tuesday. The African Union denounced the occupation as illegal and urged the two sides to avert a "disastrous" war.
Heglig, which the south claims as its own, is vital to Sudan's economy because it has a field accounting for about half of its 115,000 barrel-a-day oil output. The fighting has stopped crude production there, officials say.
South Sudanese armed forces spokesman Philip Aguer said he had not received reports of fighting in Heglig on Friday, but that the situation there should become clearer on Saturday.
"If they are advancing, the SPLA is ready to defend itself and its territories," he said by phone. "When they (Sudan's army) were pushed out of the area, they were occupying it by force, so if they want to come back by force, they can try it."
Speaking in Nairobi, Pagan Amum, South Sudan's lead negotiator at talks to resolve the dispute with Sudan, said his country was ready to withdraw under a UN-mediated plan.
"On the ground, we are ready to withdraw from Heglig as a contested area ... provided that the United Nations deploy a UN force in these contested areas and the UN also establish a monitoring mechanism to monitor the implementation of the cessation of hostilities agreement," he told reporters.
Amum said there were seven disputed areas and called for international arbitration to end the dispute over these regions.
Blow to the economy
The loss of Heglig's oil output is another blow to Sudan's economy, which was already struggling with rising food prices and a currency depreciating on the black market.
Amum said the Heglig facilities were "largely" damaged by fighting, but did not give details.
"Resumption of oil in that area will only come when the UN deploy their forces between the two countries and in the disputed areas and when the two countries reach agreement to resume oil production," he said.
Landlocked South Sudan shut down its own 350,000 barrel-per-day oil output in January in a row over how much it should pay to export crude via pipelines and facilities in Sudan.
Oil accounted for about 98 percent of the new nation's state revenues and officials have been scrambling for ways to make up for the loss.
In Juba, about 200 people demonstrated at a government-organised protest against Sudan and in support of the occupation of Heglig, holding banners which read: "The people want the army to be in Heglig" and "They bomb children and women".
The UN Security Council on Thursday added its voice to the chorus of demands that Sudan and South Sudan stop the clashes.
Sudan's UN ambassador said South Sudan must heed the call or Khartoum would "hit deep inside the south."
The African Union, which had been helping mediate talks between the two countries over oil payments and other disputed issues before Khartoum pulled out on Wednesday, also condemned the south's occupation of Heglig.
"The Council is dismayed by the illegal and unacceptable occupation by the South Sudanese armed forces of Heglig, which lies north of the agreed border line of 1st January, 1956," African Union Peace and Security Council Commissioner Ramtane Lamamra told reporters after a meeting late on Thursday.
The south seceded from Khartoum's rule last year but the two sides have not agreed on issues including the position of the border, the division of the national debt and the status of citizens in each other's territory.
Some 2 million people died in Sudan's civil war, fought for decades over ideology, religion, ethnicity and oil.
South Sudan for its part *claims* it will withdraw if the Sudanese remove all future military presence from the province, though considering the contentious status of South Kordofan, it is unlikely this will happen.
Red Menace;5632833I've always been convinced this separation was going to lead to a war. I'm honestly surprised it hasn't happened sooner.
Running right out of the gate there was already problems, lot of observers noted that the nature of the border, even by the 1956 standards, were still going to cause problems. Though I thought South Sudan would've fought more among themselves before getting confrontational with Sudan again. IIRC they had some tribal disputes a few months back that caused humanitarian problems and further fragmentation within the SPLA.
For better or for worse though, until the Americans and other supporters of Sudan can get the pipeline constructed through their country to ports in Kenya, they rely on Sudan to get their product to the market. The fact that the UN actually issued a statement against South Sudan, who they usually favor in its disputes with Khartoum, indicates to me that even the most ardent backers of South Sudan are taking concern to these kinds of actions at an early point in its life.
There's still low-level fighting, yet to escalate into a full-blown response by Sudan itself. President Bashir has already turned up the rhetoric though:
Omar al-Bashir, Sudan's president, has said his "main goal" is to free South Sudan's citizens from the ruling Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) party, after a series of border clashes between the neighbouring countries.
Bashir threatened on Wednesday to overthrow the "insect" government of its southern neighbour following an attack on Sudan's most important oil field, Heglig, by South Sudanese troops who seized it eight days ago.
"Our main goal is liberation of the southern citizens from the SPLM," he told members of Sudan's ruling National Congress Party.
"We call it an insect ... trying to destroy Sudan, and our main target from today is to eliminate this insect completely.
"There are two choices: Either we end up in Juba or they end up in Khartoum. The old borders cannot take us both," Bashir said, predicting that the victory will be swift.
"In a few hours you are going to listen to good news from your brothers in Heglig.
"Heglig will not be the end. The end will be in Juba," the South's capital.
Bashir made the remarks as his audience sang songs about jihad, or holy war.
Swift victory forecast
While Bashir forecast a swift victory, a foreign ministry official said Sudan was pursuing both military and diplomatic measures to get South Sudan out of the area.
"Military steps are under way ... and they are calculated measures," Omar Dahab, head of the ministry's crisis team, said.
"At the same time, they are taking into consideration the diplomatic and good offices efforts regarding the ending of the occupation.
"We have to end the occupation by hook or crook, by either way."
Sudan's military has released virtually no information about the situation on the ground but South Sudan has vowed to hold its positions in Heglig, despite air strikes.
Clashes broke out last month in the Heglig area and escalated last week with waves of aerial bombardment hitting the South and South Sudan''s seizure of the oil centre on April 10.
The UN, the US and the EU have criticised the South's occupation of the north's most important oil field, equally denouncing Sudanese air raids against the South.
There are widespread fears that the fighting, which began with skirmishes in the same area in late March and intensified last week, will spread.
It is already the worst since South Sudan won independence in July after a 1983-2005 civil war which killed two million people.
Bashir's comments come following the UN Security Council discussed possible sanctions on Tuesday against Sudan and South Sudan in a bid to halt a wider war.
"Council members expressed grave concern over the situation and committed to make every effort to convince the parties to cease hostilities and return to the negotiating table, " Susan Rice, the Security Council president, said.
But Dahab, of Khartoum's foreign ministry, said penalising both the aggressor and the victim would be wrong.
"It is clear that that is not fair," he said. "Logically it should be directed to the aggressor."
Although South Sudan disputes it, Heglig has been internationally recognised as being part of Sudan.
Source: Al Jazeera and agencies
Both presidents have already accused the other of interfering in internal affairs- in this regard the Sudanese government says the SPLA government has been instigating violence on border areas in violation of the agreement over their national borders. The south says that the north has a hand in the tribal infighting in their young state.
South Sudan has pledged to withdraw their forces from Heglig in three days in response to international criticism over South Sudan's actions, though is not lifting their claims on the oil town plus the whole of the South Kordofan region. President Bashir of Sudan has claimed that his forces have 'reclaimed' the town though, ahead of the planned withdrawal by South Sudan. Not quite sure what's going on, especially with President Bashar saying that he wanted to 'liberate' citizens of Sudan from the SPLA-led South Sudan. Anyways, here's the main article over the events:
Sudan and S. Sudan claim control of oil town
By MICHAEL ONYIEGO, Associated Press – 1 hour ago
JUBA, South Sudan (AP) — Sudan and South Sudan both claimed to be in control of a contested oil town near the countries' ill-defined border on Friday after the south said it was withdrawing its troops to avert a return to war.
Last week, South Sudanese troops took over the border town of Heglig, which they call Panthou, sending Sudanese troops fleeing and sparking condemnation from the U.N., America and Britain. This time, Sudan sent South Sudanese in headlong flight, Sudanese officials said.
Facing international condemnation, the spokesman for South Sudan's President Salva Kiir announced Friday that the south would withdraw its forces within three days but still believes that the town of Heglig is a part of South Sudan. Kiir said he expects its final status to be determined by international arbitration.
The announcement from Kiir was followed by a statement from Sudanese Minister for National Defense Abdel-Rahim Hussein that his country's forces had defeated South Sudan's forces in Heglig and driven them out of the city.
"Your victorious Armed Forces have managed to liberate Heglig city by force from the remnants of the South Sudan army and its mercenaries," he said in a statement carried by Sudan official news agency. "Your armed forces have entered at 2:20 p.m. and held Friday prayers inside the city."
Daffa-Alla Elhag Ali Osman, Sudan's ambassador to the U.N., also told reporters that Sudanese forces "chased out the aggressors from Heglig."
But late Friday, South Sudan's U.N. envoy told reporters at U.N. headquarters in New York that "the forces of the Republic of South Sudan are still in Heglig, in full control of Heglig as we speak."
Ambassador Agnes Oswaha said "journalists and observers and international monitors are highly welcome to Panthou to get a proof of who is there."
"If my forces were not there, why would I give a three-day ... schedule for withdrawal? I would have said I have withdrawn," she said.
Oswaha said the withdrawal "is a sign of our commitment to peace and to dialogue and to continue with the negotiations," adding that Kiir is ready to hold the summit that was canceled by Sudan's President Omar Al-Bashir.
The two countries were on the brink of all-out war this week.
Al-Bashir on Wednesday threatened to topple the South Sudan government after accusing the south of trying to take down his Khartoum-based government. Al-Bashir continued his hardline rhetoric on Thursday in an address to a "popular defense" brigade headed to the Heglig area.
South Sudan broke away from Sudan last year after an independence vote, the culmination of a 2005 peace treaty that ended decades of war that killed more than 2 million people. Despite the treaty, violence between the two countries has been on the rise, in part because the sides never agreed on the where the border lies, nor how to share oil revenues from the border region.
The U.S. welcomed the decision by South Sudan to withdraw its forces.
"In parallel, we're also calling on the government of Sudan, as we have regularly, to halt their own cross-border attacks, particularly the provocative aerial bombardments, so that we can get back to a place where these two sides are working together," U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters in Washington.
Military aircraft from Sudan have been bombing the border area and into territory that is clearly South Sudan's.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon took note of South Sudan's withdrawal announcement and urged the governments of the south and north to resume negotiations immediately under the auspices of the African Union's high-level panel, U.N. deputy spokesman Eduardo del Buey said.
In Thursday's ceremony in Khartoum, some 2,300 fighters from the volunteer Popular Defense Brigades, known as "mujahedeen," or "holy warriors" pledged their loyalty to al-Bashir before being sent to fight the South Sudanese, according to the state news agency SUNA. It was not clear if they participated in any fighting at Heglig.
Osman, Sudan's U.N. ambassador, said Sudan wants peace, will not cross the border into South Sudan and is ready to negotiate with its southern neighbor provided that the government in Juba "comes to its senses."
The increased hostilities had world leaders concerned about a return to war. The Arab League on Thursday announced an emergency session next week to discuss the crisis, while U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged the sides to negotiate.
Ban on Thursday called on South Sudan to immediately withdraw from Heglig area, saying the invasion was "an infringement on the sovereignty of Sudan and a clearly illegal act." He called on the government of Sudan to immediately stop shelling and bombing South Sudanese territory and withdraw its forces from disputed territories, including Abyei.
South Sudan's announcement on Friday comes only days after a visit to South Sudan's capital by Princeton Lyman, the U.S. special envoy to Sudan and South Sudan. Lyman told Kiir and other southern leaders there was a "unanimous" negative international reaction to South Sudan's push into Heglig and said the world community was discussing imposing sanctions in response to the military maneuver. Last year, troops from Sudan moved into Abyei and forced southern troops out of it. The south though, still believes Abyei is its territory. Benjamin, the spokesman for the south's government, said that the withdrawal from Heglig is similar: South Sudan believes it owns the land but is still withdrawing to de-escalate tensions.
Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations and Matthew Lee contributed to this report from Washington.
Copyright © 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
Tensions haven't let up, with the north saying the south hasn't withdrawn yet and the south saying that the north keeps bombing their end of the border. On a visit to China, the president of South Sudan, Salva Kiir, has stated that Sudan has essentially declared war on them. On either end of the border there's been a build up of armed forces, though it appears Sudan has air dominance here. China for its part has approached the situation with a neutral air, careful not to seemingly take the side of either, but it'll surely enrage Sudan who had close links with China before the partition.
Salva Kiir, the South Sudanese president, has said his northern neighbour Sudan has "declared war" on his country, as fighter jets from the north reportedly launched more strikes overnight in a border region.
Although there has yet to be a formal declaration of war by either of the Sudans, Kiir's comments, made on Tuesday during talks on a visit to China, will likely stoke tension between the rival nations.
While meeting his Chinese counterpart, Hu Jintao, the South Sudanese leader said the visit "comes at a very critical moment for the Republic of South Sudan because our neighbour in Khartoum has declared war on the Republic of South Sudan".
A spokesman for the South Sudan military said Sudanese Antonov airplanes dropped eight bombs between 11pm and 1am in Panakuac, where he said ground fighting had been ongoing since Sunday.
Colonel Philip Aguer said he had not received information on casualties from the attack because of poor communications.
The bombings followed Monday's aerial attacks that targeted a market and an oil field in South Sudan, leaving at least two people dead.
The assault took place after Sudanese ground forces had reportedly crossed into South Sudan with tanks and artillery.
China urges restraint
China has called for an end to weeks of border fighting that saw the South seize Sudan's most important oilfield in the Heglig area on April 10 for 10 days.
Beijing has been a key ally and the largest economic partner of diplomatically isolated Sudan.
But it is keen not to alienate the South, the world's newest nation and a source of oil.
"I think China would be more aware than any other actor that things are on a knife edge at the moment," Larry Attree, a specialist in conflict prevention with the NGO Saferworld, told Al Jazeera from London.
"China has a strong interest in seeing a peaceful outcome between South Sudan and Sudan and it gets 60 per cent of its oil from the combination of the two countries ... and both countries see it as a key partner.
"It's been Sudan's leading trade partner for the last decade or so, and also has a seat on the UN Security Council. In terms of clout, it is the key external actor with the influence on the two parties."
South said it withdrew its forces from the disputed oil town, but the North claimed its soldiers drove them out.
After heavy fighting that broke out last month, both Sudan and South Sudan are reportedly reinforcing troop numbers and digging into trenches along their contested border.
Taban Deng, the governor of Unity State, said that at present "with the exception of aerial bombardment, the front line is quiet".
However, Mac Paul, the South's deputy director of military intelligence, said he had "information from our sources the Sudanese army is mobilising for a push on Bentiu".
His claims, however, could not be verified from independent sources.
Bentiu lies at least 60km from the frontline with Sudan's army, and large numbers of Southern troops and tanks have moved into the border zone to bolster defences.
Sudan denies responsibility, but the president has promised to press ahead with a military campaign until all southern troops or affiliated forces leave territories in Sudan.
Amid the escalating tension between the the two neighbours, Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, condemned air raids by Sudan, and called on the countries' leaders to return to dialogue.
"The secretary-general condemns the aerial bombardment on South Sudan by Sudanese armed forces and calls on the government of Sudan to cease all hostilities immediately," Eduardo del Buey, deputy UN spokesman, said on Monday.
'Return to dialogue'
"He [Ban] calls on President [Omar] al-Bashir and President [Salwa] Kiir to stop the slide toward further confrontation and urges both sides to return to dialogue as a matter of urgency."
The UN chief’s call for calm came after Bashir ruled out any future talks with his southern counterpart.
Bashir, who visited the oil-rich town of Heglig on Monday, said the time for talks with Kiir's government was over.
"No negotiation with those people, our talks with them were with guns and bullets," Bashir told soldiers in the town, which the South occupied for 10 days.
The violence in Heglig is the worst since South Sudan won independence in July last year after a 1983 to 2005 civil war in which an estimated two million people died.
Sudan and South Sudan have been drawing closer to a full-scale war in recent months over the unresolved issues of sharing oil revenues and the disputed border.
Talks between the two countries over the unresolved disputes, that were being mediated by the African Union, broke down in Ethiopia earlier this month.
The UN has issued a warning against both Sudan and South Sudan to stand down or risk getting sanctioned.
May 3, 2012 U.N. Resolution Threatens Sanctions Against Sudan and South Sudan By JOSH KRON
The United Nations Security Council approved a resolution on Wednesday threatening Sudan and South Sudan with sanctions if they failed to halt escalating cross-border fighting that was called a “serious threat to international peace.” The resolution demanded the nations resume negotiations on fraught issues like oil sharing to try to stop the violence. Russia and China, which have resisted voting against Sudan in the past, joined in the unanimous passage of the resolution. The resolution also called for both nations to remove their forces from Abyei, arguably the most iconic of numerous contested regions along the border. Last month, hostilities heated up when South Sudan captured the oil-rich region of Heglig from Sudan. It later withdrew, after Sudanese airstrikes and pressure from the international community, but clashes between the two nations continue along the border, as well as inside South Sudan’s territory.
This is to be done by Friday night. For their part both nations say they will abide by the UN warning, but also took the opportunity to say they were merely acting in self-defense. We'll see what they do come Friday, I guess.