Khartoum: South Sudan`s vice president
flew to Khartoum on Saturday on a mission to "ease tensions" over
Abyei, one week after northern troops overran the contested
border region, a southern official said.
"A high-level delegation led by the vice president,
Riek Machar, has gone to Khartoum," said Mangar Amerdid, a
spokesman in the office of the southern president.
"It is aimed as an effort to normalise and ease
tensions, and to improve the situation in Abyei," he added,
but could not confirm who the southern team would meet in the
The surprise visit came as the northern National
Congress Party and the south`s Sudan People`s Liberation
Movement (SPLM) were to meet in Addis Ababa today for talks
also to be attended by the African Union panel on Sudan and
South Africa`s former president Thabo Mbeki.
Khartoum`s chief Abyei negotiator Al-Dirdiri Mohammed
Ahmed said yesterday that the northern government was "open"
to negotiations with the south.
South Sudan leader Salva Kiir has called for a
complete withdrawal of Sudanese government forces from Abyei,
insisting the south did not want a return to war.
The northern troops have deployed as far south as the
River Kiir, known in northern Sudan as the Bahr al-Arab, which
has become the frontline between the Sudanese Armed Forces
(SAF) and southern troops.
Thousands have been displaced by the fighting.
A southern Sudanese minister said more than 150,000
people have fled violence ravaging the border region and
surrounding areas since May 21 when northern troops and tanks
However, the United Nations says it can only confirm
that up to 40,000 people are displaced.
At least 15,000 people are living in the open in
Turalei, some 130 kilometres from Abyei town, according to the
"The situation remains difficult," said Dominic Deng
Kuoc, the commissioner for Twic county, which includes Turalei
and borders Abyei. "There have just been heavy rains and the
people are outside, with only trees for shelter."
Food rations were being distributed but the process
was slow. "There are people still coming, many carrying
little, so they all need much support," he said.
Anger remains high in the south.