China pushing for end to renewed violence in Sudan

June 23, 2011 - 7:44 AM

BEIJING (AP) — China is pressing both sides in Sudan to end renewed violence that is threatening a landmark peace agreement, Beijing's special envoy for African affairs said Thursday.

Leaders in both Khartoum in the north and Juba in the soon-to-be-independent south must peacefully settle disputes that have led to new fighting in the Abyei and South Kordofan regions, said Liu Guijin, who said he conveyed that message to top officials during a recent visit to Sudan.

Those issues will be raised again when Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir visits Beijing next week, Liu said.

"Both in Khartoum and Juba, I stressed that the situation in Abyei is deteriorating and both sides should exercise maximum restraint and be prepared for compromise," Liu said. "Regardless of what occurs, war is not an option."

China has major oil investments in Sudan and has long had close ties with the leaders of the north. It has been courting support in the oil-producing south, which becomes an independent country on July 9.

U.S. officials last week said they want China to urge al-Bashir to abide by the terms of a 2005 peace agreement that ended Sudan's two-decade north-south civil war and led to the south's secession vote.

The status of Abyei and South Kordofan was supposed to have been resolved under the 2005 accord, but the north's military invaded Abyei last month, leading to new clashes. Recent fighting in South Kordofan has also killed dozens.

Oil is at the center of the fraught relations. Most of it lies in the south, but all the pipelines and the transporting port are in the north. The two governments are still negotiating how oil wealth will be shared.

China has been criticized in the past for either ignoring the deteriorating situation in Sudan or not doing enough to press Khartoum to abide by its commitments, out of concern for its oil investments.

However, Liu said China had successfully encouraged Khartoum to accept the 2005 peace deal, allow a United Nations peacekeeping force and facilitate the January election that saw the south vote overwhelmingly for independence.