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China calls for restraint in South Sudan-Sudan conflict

China Daily | Updated: 2012-04-24 08:06

China calls for restraint in South Sudan-Sudan conflict

A wounded soldier of the Sudan People's Liberation Army of South Sudan is treated at the Rubkona Military Hospital in Rubkona, South Sudan, on Sunday. Sudan claimed to have inflicted heavy losses on rebels who allegedly attacked a strategic southern town on the same day that South Sudanese forces ended their occupation of the key oilfield of Heglig. [Adriane Ohanesian / AFP]

China welcomes the prospect of peace between South Sudan and Sudan, which appeared possible after South Sudan's army said on Sunday that it had pulled back from Heglig, a contested border area and the site of weeks of intense fighting.

"We hope both sides respect each other's sovereignty and enhance mutual trust," Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said. Both sides should restart talks as soon as possible, Liu said, urging "calm and restraint" from both Khartoum and Juba.

Liu added that China would work with the international society and play a constructive role in advising and encouraging negotiations for both sides.

Khartoum has said that 938 soldiers from the Sudan People's Liberation Army, South Sudan's army and the Darfur rebel Justice and Equality Movement were killed during the battle to restore the Heglig oil area.

"The Sudanese army has managed to kill 938 soldiers, dispersed seven battalions of the SPLA and JEM and arrested many of their commanders during the battles to restore Heglig," Major General Kamal Abdul-Marouf, the Sudanese army commander who led the Heglig battle, was quoted by the Al-Sudani daily as saying.

"The Sudanese armed forces have led fierce hand-to-hand battles with the enemy inside the town to avoid harming oil facilities with firearms," he added, noting that the Sudanese army has confiscated most of the weapons used by the SPLA during the battles.

South Sudan's army said 19 of its soldiers and 240 enemy forces had been killed during its 10-day occupation of Heglig.

The Sudanese government on Friday announced that the oil-rich area of Heglig was "liberated" after being seized by the SPLA, but didnot say how many of its soldiers died in the operation.

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir said that the Sudanese army has "forcibly" restored the area, insisting that South Sudan forces have fled and not voluntarily withdrawn, as the South Sudan government has claimed.

In a related development, the Al Ray Al Am daily reported that the Sudanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs has summoned representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Khartoum to consult on measures to bury the bodies of SPLA soldiers killed during the battles in Heglig.

The ministry said the move demonstrates its commitment to international and humanitarian laws, namely, the four Geneva agreements and the annex and protocol related to international conflicts, adding that the two sides have agreed to follow the procedures stipulated in those agreements.

In another development, the Sudanese Oil Ministry has started to make necessary arrangements to resume pumping oil from Heglig oilfields after taking the area back.

Sudanese State Minister for Oil Ishaq Bashir said oil-pumping in Heglig would resume very soon, adding that the operation of the oilfields and oil facilities would be undertaken in coordination with Sudanese Armed Forces, the paper reported.

President al-Bashir has vowed not to hold talks with South Sudan on the oil issue and to restrict South Sudan from transporting oil through Sudanese territory.

Juba would only "use the oil revenues to destroy Sudan and to finance the criminals in Sudan", President al-Bashir said, while addressing a mass rally on Friday evening in central Khartoum.

"Oil is the economic lifeline for both Sudan and South Sudan. We hope rewards from the oil industry could be appropriately distributed, comforming to the fundamental interests of both sides," Liu said, emphasizing that the legitimate rights and interests of China's oil producers and their partners, who have major projects in the two countries, should be protected.

The South seized Heglig on April 10 and occupied it for 10 days, sparking the worst battle since its independence in July 2011, as well as serious international concerns.

Xinhua - China Daily

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