South Sudan says it is in control of disputed oil town and accuses the North of “indiscriminate bombing”.
Sudan’s president has said he will “cut” the hand of aggressors and retake the contested oil-producing Heglig region as his country continues to clash with neighbouring South Sudan.
Omar al-Bashir told a rally in Sudan’s North Kordofan state on Thursday he would not surrender “an inch” of the country and that he would firmly deal with its enemies.
“We will not give them an inch of our country, and whoever extends his hand on Sudan, we will cut it,” Bashir told thousands of people in El-Obeid, North Kordofan’s capital.
“Heglig is in Kordofan,” he said in the speech broadcast on state television, dancing and waving his walking stick. The region accounts for 50 per cent of Sudan’s oil production.
Al Jazeera’s Peter Greste, reporting from Bentiu, South Sudan, said officials in Juba, the country’s capital, had dismissed Bashir’s statements as rhetoric.
“They [Sudanese authorities] never really accepted the cessation of the South”, Barnaba Benjamin, the South Sudanese minister of information, told our correspondent, referring to the referendum that led to South Sudan becoming an independent state.
Benjamin said the South was not interested in war with Sudan and that the country was only trying to defend its “territorial integrity”.
But Ban Ki Moon, the UN secretary general, said on Thursday that South Sudan’s seizure of the Heglig oil field in neighbouring Sudan was an “illegal act” and called on both countries to stop fighting.
“I call on South Sudan to immediately withdraw its forces from Heglig. This is an infringement on the sovereignty of Sudan and a clearly illegal act,” Ban told reporters.
“I also call on the government of Sudan to immediately stop shelling and bombing South Sudanese territory and withdraw its forces from disputed territories.”
Our correspondent Greste said Bashir’s statements were complicating diplomatic efforts.
“The scaling up of the rhetoric is something that is worrying diplomats,” our correspondent said. “The challenge for the diplomats is to try to find [a way of] of resolving this dispute … “
Bashir threatened on Wednesday to overthrow the “insect” government in South Sudan, after days of border clashes since the South seized Juba eight days ago.
“Our main goal is liberation of the southern citizens from the SPLM,” he told members of Sudan’s ruling National Congress Party, referring to the ruling party in the South, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM).
“We call it an insect … trying to destroy Sudan, and our main target from today is to eliminate this insect completely,” Bashir said.
“There are two choices: Either we end up in Juba or they end up in Khartoum. The old borders cannot take us both.”
A foreign ministry official said Sudan was pursuing both military and diplomatic measures to remove South Sudan from the Heglig area.
“Military steps are under way … and they are calculated measures,” Omar Dahab, head of the ministry’s crisis team, said.
“At the same time, they are taking into consideration the diplomatic efforts regarding the ending of the occupation. We have to end the occupation by hook or crook, by either way.”
Sudan’s military has released virtually no information about the situation on the ground, but South Sudan has vowed to hold its positions in Heglig, despite air strikes.
Clashes broke out last month in the Heglig area and escalated last week with waves of aerial bombardment hitting the South and South Sudan’s seizure of the oil centre on April 10.
The UN, the US and the European Union have criticised the South’s occupation of the north’s most important oil field, equally denouncing Sudanese air raids against the South. South Sudan claims the raids prompted the invasion of Heglig.