UNITED NATIONS (AFP) – The UN Security Council sought ways Friday to end spiraling cross-border violence between Sudan and rival South Sudan amid international condemnation of an attack on a southern refugee camp.
Sudan’s UN envoy denied his country’s forces were behind Thursday’s deadly attack on the Yida camp near the tense border. But US Ambassador Susan Rice said the Khartoum envoy had “blatantly lied” to the Security Council.
Sge condemned the attack in the “strongest possible terms” and said there was no doubt Sudan carried it out.
The UN mission in South Sudan has “confirmed that the Sudan Armed Forces dropped at least two bombs near the Yida refugee camp,” UN peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous told an emergency Security Council meeting on the escalating tensions.
Ladsous also highlighted reports that Sudanese troops had launched attacks in oil fields in South Sudan’s Upper Nile state. South Sudan’s army said a cross-border attack by Sudanese troops on a military base left 18 fighters dead and 73 wounded.
UN human rights chief Navi Pillay has called for an independent probe into the air strikes and for those responsible to be brought to justice.
“There is no aerial bombardment, we did not exercise any kind of military activity outside our borders,” Sudan’s UN envoy Daffa-Alla Elhag Ali Osman told reporters after the Security Council meeting.
He called evidence of the bombing of the Yida campa “fabrications” by media outlets that support rebels fighting his government.
Osman raised Khartoum’s accusations that South Sudan’s government was helping rebels in the Sudanese states of Blue Nile and South Kordofan.
The Yida camp was attacked “repeatedly” by air for several hours in an incident confirmed by the UN representative in South Sudan, Rice said.
“It is incontrovertible and the fact that the representative of the government of Sudan came to the council and blatantly lied is quite disturbing to the United States and to many other members of the Security Council,” she added.
But she noted that the United States and other members of the 15-nation council were gravely concerned at the escalating tensions.
Sudan “needs to halt all offensive actions against the South immediately. And the South needs to have the wisdom and the restraint not to take the bait and not to respond in kind,” Rice told reporters.
The north and south fought a two-decade civil war up to 2005 in which more than two million died. Tensions have been steadily rising again since their formal split in July.
Rice warned that a resumption of “full scale direct conflict” between the two parties “will put the future of both countries at grave risk.”
The Security Council is discussing ways “we might prevail on the parties to de-escalate, return to the negotiating table and solve critical issues that divide them,” she said.
Ladsous said the UN has relocated at least 12 aid agency and UN staff from the area around the Yida camp.