Elders visit South Sudan, urge talks with Sudan

7 Jul 2012

Elders visit South Sudan, urge talks with Sudan

6 July 2012 - The presidents of Sudan and South Sudan should urgently meet and enter into dialogue in resolving ongoing disputes, the Elders said today in Juba.

"Dialogue is the only way to resolve differences and to build two viable states," said Elders Chair Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa. "Military force is a dead end, promising nothing but suffering and misery."

Accompanying Archbishop Tutu were Martti Ahtisaari, former President of Finland, and former Irish President Mary Robinson.

In supporting ongoing African Union High Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP)-led talks between South Sudan and Sudan, the Elders came to Juba to meet with South Sudanese President Salva Kiir Mayardit.

"We came to Juba today and intend to visit Khartoum next week to urge the leaders of both countries to realize their interdependence and put the welfare of their people first," said President Robinson.

South Sudan and Sudan are currently in negotiation talks in Addis Ababa aimed at resolving border disputes that almost led to war earlier this year.

"The differences between Juba and Khartoum are based on mistrust, which needs to be overcome by confidence-building measures," said President Ahtisaari. "As Elders we strongly encourage President Kiir and President (Omar) Al-Bashir to meet in person as soon as possible."

The Elders are scheduled to meet separately with President Al-Bashir on 10 July ahead of a 2 August UN Security Council deadline for an agreement between the two parties.

With South Sudan preparing to celebrate its first year of independence, The Elders also discussed challenges faced by the new country.

"We are particularly concerned about the human impact of tensions between the north and south," said President Johnson. "The conflicts in South Kordofan and Blue Nile State have pushed 200,000 refugees to neighboring Ethiopia and South Sudan."

The economy was also in crisis "due in part to the government's decision to shut down oil production", said Archbishop Tutu. "The President's own estimation of losses due to corruption is truly shocking."

Commending AUHIP efforts that had brought the parties back to the negotiating table, Archbishop Tutu said, "There is still time to turn things around."

South Sudan will mark its first year of independence on 9 July.