The Vice president of South Sudan Riek Machar dismissed statements made by Sudanese president Omer Hassan al-Bashir in which he raised the prospects of war between neighboring states.
“Our programme is peace with the north and we will work on it,” Machar told the London-based al-Sharq al-Awsat newspaper.
“We will not go to war with the north, not out of fear but because this is the logic and the voice of the whole world,” he added.
“Why resort to war and in our hands is the way of peace through dialogue?”.
This week the Sudanese president suggested that tensions reached a level which makes the scenario of war a real possibility.
“The climate now is closer to a climate of war than one of peace,” Bashir said in a TV interview on Friday.
The ex-foes have been unable to resolve their dispute over oil transit fees despite intense mediation efforts by the African Union (AU) and regional countries.
The landlocked new nation took three-quarters of the oil production – the lifeline of both economies – but needs to pay for using northern export facilities and the Red Sea port of Port Sudan.
Khartoum wants Juba to pay $32 per barrel of oil exported but the latter say $1 is the fair price.
Tension rose when Sudan said last month it started seizing southern oil at Port Sudan as compensation for what it called unpaid pipeline transit fees. South Sudan responded by shutting down its entire output of 350,000 barrels a day.
Machar said that suspending oil production does not mean they want to go to war with Sudan.
“Oil is our resource and we have the right to deal with it however we please and Bashir should have encouraged the parties to [sit] for dialogue,” he said.
South Sudan VP also reacted to statements by Sudanese foreign minister Ali Karti that Khartoum will use 700,000 of southerners living in the north if a war erupts.
Machar said southerners on either side of the borders don’t want to go to war adding that 2 million cattle herders from the north operating in the south will have their presence terminated by end of March in accordance with the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA).
“Juba can repatriate its citizens who are in the north within six months,” he said. “But what they will do with more than two million coming annually to their interests in the south? So we see that peace is the logic that must be followed because there is no reason that can lead the two countries to fight a war again”.
Machar also said that Bashir should try and solve his internal problems such as wars in Blue Nile, South Kordofan and Darfur as well as the economic crisis and unrest in East Sudan.
“Khartoum does not want to be convinced that South Sudan has become a sovereign state, and the northern government must respect that and deal on the basis of that,” he said.
“In any case we will go to the negotiations [on oil] with the Sudanese government on \February 10th in Addis Ababa and we will continue with the dialogue, but the threat does not work in such negotiations” Machar added.