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U.S. envoy optimistic on peaceful independence for South Sudan

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U.S. envoy optimistic on peaceful independence for South Sudan

Sides dispute oil-rich central region

  • The United States is reasonably optimistic that South Sudan can become independent peacefully, despite several disputed issues.
    bartpogoda/FlickrThe United States is reasonably optimistic that South Sudan can become independent peacefully, despite several disputed issues.

South Sudan stands a good chance of becoming an independent nation peacefully, despite ongoing skirmishes and a build up of military forces on the disputed border between North and South Sudan.

That's the word from U.S. Special Envoy to Sudan Princeton Lyman, who says that he is "reasonably optimistic" that Sudanese parties can amicably resolve their remaining issues before South Sudan becomes independent on July 9, according to VOA.

Lyman's optimism is guarded because the North and South have continued to exchange antagonistic statements and there is a build up of military forces along the disputed border between the two.

Talks on the separation of the country between the ruling parties of the North and South resumed this week in Addis Ababa.

The major issue is whether or not the oil-rich central Abyei region will be in the South or the North. The two sides must also sort out differences over oil-sharing, currency policy and dividing Sudan's external debt.

Lyman, who visited Khartoum and Juba earlier this month, expressed relief that the parties were able to step back from a potential confrontation after a military clash in Abyei on May 1. He urged them to withdraw excess forces from the disputed region under a deal mediated by the African Union and United Nations.

Lyman was joined at a State Department briefing by U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Rajiv Shah, who visited Sudan to see how the two states can be economically viable. He said the United States and Norway will host an investor's conference for Southern Sudan and Northern Sudan respectively. The conference will be in Washington, D.C., in September.

Shah said would-be investors in the south are encouraged. He said the North, facing a loss of oil income, will have to diversify its economy.

"They need to reinvest in agriculture, which continues to be the area of employment for 80 percent of the population. And they need to do that in ways that recognize that trade with the South, whether in the agriculture sector or other sectors, is going to be a critical part of an economic strategy, just as for the south, trade with the north will continue to be quite important for their economic viability," said Shah.

Lyman also visited Sudan's troubled western Darfur region and said the United States is "very disturbed" by recent fighting between government forces and Darfur rebels, including government airstrikes.

In response to questions, Lyman said progress on a U.S.-proposed "road map" to full normalization of U.S. relations with President Omar al-Bashir's government in Khartoum is not frozen because of the Darfur violence but he said events there are "terribly relevant."

This article originally appeared on GlobalPost.

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