Sudan asks Turkey for help amid clashes with South Sudan

April 20, 2012, Friday/ 10:22:00/ CELİL SAĞIR

Turkey says Sudan has asked Ankara for immediate help in border clashes with South Sudan that are threatening to spiral into full-scale war.

South Sudan broke away from Sudan in July after decades of civil war, but the two never agreed on how to share the oil wealth found in the region, and the border was never fully demarcated. Fighting along the ill-defined border between the former civil-war foes has led to a standoff over the Heglig oil field after it was seized a week ago by troops from South Sudan, which declared independence last year.

Sudanese Foreign Minister Ali Ahmed Karti called Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu to ask for his help in stopping border clashes, the Turkish foreign minister told a group of journalists en route to Paris from Brussels. Davutoğlu attended a “Friends of Syria” meeting in Paris that aims to pressure Syria's embattled President Bashar al-Assad to put an end to 13 months of violence in the country.

Fighting has intensified along the border between Sudan and South Sudan in the last several weeks amid fears the two sides could return to an all-out war. On Tuesday, 22 people died in a clash at a river that divides the countries.

Davutoğlu said he discussed the border clashes between Sudan and South Sudan during his bilateral talks on the sidelines of a NATO foreign and defense ministers meeting in Brussels. He added that he discussed the matter in some detail with his British counterpart, William Hague. According to Davutoğlu, Turkey and the United Kingdom agreed to work together on the issue.

Distrust runs deep between the neighbors, who are at loggerheads over the position of their border, how much the landlocked south should pay to transport its oil through Sudan and the division of national debt, among other issues.

South Sudan has accused Sudan of launching air strikes on some of its major oilfields. Sudan has denied launching air strikes, but said its ground forces had attacked southern artillery positions that had fired on the north.

Turkey recognized South Sudan last July when it declared its independence from Sudan and opened an embassy in its capital Juba. Diplomatic sources told Today's Zaman that Sudan told Turkey that there is no problem in recognizing the southern government and its opening of the embassy. Sudan has said Turkey could mediate in the case of any disagreements between Khartoum and Juba.

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