KHARTOUM, (Reuters) – Rebels clashed with Sudanese government forces in the oil-producing border state of South Kordofan, both sides said on Friday, just days before Sudan and South Sudan are set to resume talks on securing their disputed and volatile frontier.
South Sudan split away from Sudan last year under a 2005 peace deal that ended decades of civil war, but the two have remained at odds over a range of issues and conflict has continued to plague their borderlands.
One of the most contentious issues has been Khartoum’s accusation that Juba is supporting the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement North (SPLM-N) in South Kordofan and other insurgents. South Sudan denies the charge.
Fighters of the SPLM-N said in a statement they killed four enemy troops and captured equipment and ammunition during an attack on an army camp in the Rashad area in the state’s northeast on Wednesday.
Sudan’s armed force spokesman Al-Sawarmi Khalid confirmed the two sides had clashed in the state, but said the fighting broke out when rebels tried to attack a region called al-Murib.
“Their attempt failed,” he said by phone.
Sudan and South Sudan are expected to resume talks over border security in Addis Ababa next week, after they were delayed because of the funeral for Ethiopia’s former Prime Minister Meles Zenawi.
The two countries are expected to come under pressure from mediators to reach a partial deal on border security so that they can resume oil exports vital to both economies.
Landlocked South Sudan shut down its oil output in January in a row with Khartoum over how much it should pay to export through Sudan.
The two sides reached an interim agreement on fees this month but Sudan says it wants a security deal before crude flows resume.
South Sudan seceded after voting overwhelmingly for independence in a 2011 referendum. Some 2 million people died in the decades-long war between north and south Sudan.