U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed alarm on Wednesday at recent fighting in Sudan’s oil-producing Southern Kordofan state ahead of southern Sudan’s July 9 secession.
The northern Sudanese army has been clashing with armed groups aligned with south Sudan in Southern Kordofan — a northern, oil-producing state that surrounds the disputed Abyei region on the ill-defined north-south border.
“The Secretary-General is deeply concerned about the deterioration of the security situation and the escalation of fighting in Southern Kordofan, which has caused the death of many civilians and the displacement of tens of thousands,” Ban’s press office said in a statement.
Ban urged all the fighting parties “to immediately cease all hostilities and allow unconditional air and ground access to UNMIS (U.N. peacekeepers in Sudan) and the humanitarian agencies to all parts of Southern Kordofan.”
U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos issued a separate statement about the difficulties delivering aid in the area.
“Humanitarian organizations are delivering aid where they can, but their ability to help most of those in need is seriously compromised by insecurity and lack of access,” she said.
“I call on all parties to the conflict to refrain from targeting civilians and using indiscriminate tactics,” Amos added.
Analysts have said the north may be trying to assert its authority along the north-south border to stamp out any remnants of southern support ahead of the split.
The July 9 division of Africa’s largest country into separate northern and southern states is a highly sensitive subject for the northern government in Khartoum, which stands to lose around a third of its territory and up to three quarters of its oil reserves when the south leaves.
Northern and southern troops also clashed on Wednesday in the disputed Abyei region, which both the north and south would like to include in their territory.
Separately, the U.N. Security Council canceled a scheduled meeting on Sudan on Wednesday with representatives of an African Union high-level panel for the second time since last week to allow time for negotiations in Addis Ababa between north and south Sudan to yield an agreement, diplomats said.
“We’d rather the council met on Sudan when they (the north and south) have an agreement and then we’ll hold them to it,” said a council diplomat on condition of anonymity.
The British U.N. mission issued several statements via Twitter about the situation in Southern Kordofan. The mission said that denying humanitarian access to Southern Kordofan was “unacceptable.”
It added that the two sides should “find peaceful solutions to Southern Kordofan violence and Abyei situation (and) commit to a way forward.”