BEIJING (Reuters) - China will send its envoy for Africa to Sudan and South Sudan to urge talks as it works with the United States to bring an end to border fighting that has raised fears of a full-scale war, Chinese government officials said on Wednesday.
South Sudan has accused Sudan of mounting bombing raids on the newly independent country’s oil-producing border region after South Sudan said it would withdraw from the disputed Heglig oilfield it seized this month.
Chinese President Hu Jintao, whose country has significant oil and business interests in both African nations, told South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir on Tuesday that the two Sudans should return to talks.
“Our special envoy to Africa will soon visit the two countries to continue urging talks,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin told a regular news briefing.
“Actually, he has already gone at the beginning of this year. This is the second time he will go to Sudan and South Sudan to promote talks,” Liu said, referring to China’s newly appointed envoy, Zhong Jianhua.
“China is deeply concerned,” he said, reiterating calls for calm and restraint.
The Shanghai leg of Kiir’s visit had been cancelled and his China trip cut short, Liu said without giving details.
At a separate briefing, Vice Foreign Minister Cui Tiankai said China was working with the United States to try to end the crisis.
“Both of our countries have special envoys who are in very close touch,” Cui said.
“China and the United States are working on the issue through our own channels. We hope Sino-U.S. cooperation on this issue will pay off,” he said.
Weeks of cross-border fighting between the former civil war foes have threatened to escalate into a full conflict in a region that holds one of Africa’s most significant oil reserves.
Sudan split into the two countries last year without settling a list of disputes over the position of their border and how much the landlocked South should pay to transport its oil through Sudan.
Reporting by Sabrina Mao, Michael Martina and Ben Blanchard; Editing by Robert Birsel