South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir said Tuesday Khartoum had “declared war” on his country, as violence between the world’s newest nation and Sudan intensified.
“Our neighbor in Khartoum has declared war on the Republic of South Sudan,” Kiir told President Hu Jintao during an official visit to China, which has long been a close ally of Khartoum.
Salva Kiir made the remark Tuesday during talks with Chinese President Hu Jintao in Beijing. Kiir arrived Monday for a five-day visit.
Meanwhile, South Sudan’s continued support for rebels inside Sudan undermines the north’s stability, despite international appeals for it to stop, Khartoum’s foreign ministry said in a statement late Monday.
“(The) South Sudan government did not respond to the repeated calls of the international community and continued its hostile activities to undermine the stability and security of Sudan,” said the statement carried by the official SUNA news agency.
The statement came after fresh Sudanese air raids against the South drew swift condemnation from the United Nations, United States and France.
Sudan accuses the South of supporting anti-government rebels from its conflict-hit western region of Darfur as well as those fighting in South Kordofan state and Blue Nile.
The South denies backing opposition movements inside Sudan, according to AFP.
On Friday, U.S. President Barack Obama, while calling on Sudan to cease its aerial bombardments, said South Sudan “must end its support for armed groups inside Sudan and it must cease its military actions across the border.”
The foreign ministry said rebels were behind an attack on a joint Sudan-Chad-Central African border force in Darfur.
Eleven Central African troops belonging to the regional task force died in the rebel attack last week on the Sudanese side of the border, officials in Bangui said earlier.
The ministry also referred to repeated rebel attacks on the South Kordofan town of Talodi.
Insurgents from the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) claimed to control part of the strategic town on Sunday night, denying they had suffered heavy losses on the same day South Sudanese forces ended their occupation of the key Heglig oilfield in the southern region.
“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs affirmed that the armed forces maintain the legitimate right... to practice self-defense and to pursue the aggressors wherever they are,” the statement on SUNA said.
Sudanese soldiers cheered, hoisted rifles in the air and showed off a battered South Sudanese tank and dozens of corpses in the Heglig border region on Monday, leaving no doubt who was in control of the hotly disputed oil area, Reuters reported.
Heglig was at the center of the worst violence between Sudan and South Sudan since they split into two countries under a 2005 peace deal that ended decades of civil war. The fighting raised fears the neighbors could slide back into a full-blown conflict.
South Sudan seized the region - which many southerners call Panthou - earlier this month, before withdrawing last week under heavy international pressure and, according to Khartoum, a thrashing at the hands of the Sudanese army.
The loss of the economically vital region was a major shock to many Sudanese, and news it was back under the control of Sudan’s army set off widespread celebrations in Khartoum.
Heglig produced about half of the 115,000 barrel-a-day output that remained to Sudan after the South seceded, and both sides have accused one another of damaging its infrastructure.
Military tensions continued to mount on Monday after South Sudan accused Sudan of bombing a market in Bentiu, the capital of its oil-producing Unity state, calling the attack a declaration of war. Sudan’s army denied carrying out any air raids.