KHARTOUM/JUBA (Reuters) - Sudan said it would mobilise the army and cut off talks with South Sudan on Wednesday after a flare-up in border clashes raised the risk of a return to all-out war.
South Sudan, which seceded in July, has been locked in an increasingly bitter dispute with its former civil war foe over oil payments and other vital issues, as clashes escalated in the ill-defined border region.
Sudan’s state media said the country’s national legislation council had decided to stop negotiations with the south aimed at ending the oil row and other disputes after accusing Juba of attacking an important oil field in a turbulent border area.
South Sudan, for its part, immediately accused Sudan of bombing a village on its side of the 1,800 km (1,200 miles) border where fighting broke out about two weeks ago.
State news agency SUNA said Sudan would order a general army mobilisation but gave no further details. It quoted Defence Minister Abdel Raheem Muhammad Hussein as saying the army was capable of preserving stability and controlling the situation.
It was not possible to verify statements from both sides as almost no access to conflict areas is given to foreign media.
On the diplomatic front, SUNA said Sudan would halt all talks sponsored by the African Union with Juba and withdraw its negotiating team from Addis Ababa with immediate effect.
Sudan also accused the South of attacking Heglig, a disputed area vital to Sudan’s economy because of an oil field accounting for about half of its 115,000 barrel-a-day output.
“On Tuesday morning and afternoon, areas of South Kordofan state, most notably Heglig, were brutally attacked by the SPLA (southern army), supported by the state of South Sudan, using mercenary forces and rebel groups,” Sudan’s Information Ministry said in a statement.
“The government of Sudan announces it will oppose this flagrantly aggressive behaviour by all legitimate ways and means.”
Sudan urged the U.N. Security Council to call on South Sudan to withdraw from all areas inside Sudanese territory, state news agency SUNA said.
Al Jazeera television had earlier quoted a Khartoum government source as saying South Sudan’s army had taken control of Heglig, but officials in the South could not confirm that.
“There is only fighting inside South Sudanese territory,” South Sudan’s Information Minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin said, adding that South Sudan was only acting in self defence after Sudan launched a ground attack from Heglig late on Monday.
He said the Sudanese air force had bombed the village of Abiemnom inside South Sudan’s Unity state on Wednesday, wounding four people including a child.
Sudan’s army spokesman Al-Sawarmi Khalid Saad could not be reached despite repeated attempts to call his mobile phone.
Violence in the border regions has hampered negotiations over partition-related issues including demarcating the border, determining the status of citizens in one another’s territory and dividing up debt.
Reporting by Alexander Dziadosz, Khalid Abdelaziz and Ulf Laessing; Editing by Maria Golovnina