Sudanese refugees at the Yida settlement in South Sudan. Photo: UNHCR/V.Tan

In a conversation today with the President of South Sudan, Salva Kiir, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for an immediate de-escalation of the situation between South Sudan and Sudan in order to avoid further bloodshed.

The de-escalation is the ?immediate priority? ahead of any discussion on the causes of the escalation, Mr. Ban said in a morning telephone call with Mr. Kiir, according to Mr. Ban?s spokesperson.

?The Secretary-General urged [Mr. Kiir] to consider holding a presidential summit immediately to build confidence and assure the peoples of South Sudan and Sudan that peace and dialogue is the only option before both sides,? the spokesperson said.

Concern has been growing over reports of clashes along the two countries? shared border, with the Security Council recently warning that the fighting could reignite conflict between the two nations. In March, the Council urged the two governments to exercise restraint and to peacefully address the issues that have fuelled mistrust between them, including differences over oil, violence in the border region, citizenship and Abyei.

Late yesterday in New York, Mr. Ban also spoke with the Permanent Representative of Sudan to the United Nations and strongly urged Khartoum to exercise maximum restraint and avoid further military action.

Today in Washington, the Secretary-General also discussed the tensions between Sudan and South Sudan with the United States Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton. Mr. Ban also spoke with the Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi.

Sudan and South Sudan have been in talks aimed at resolving outstanding post-independence issues, but mistrust has persisted. South Sudan became independent from Sudan in July last year, six years after the signing of the peace agreement that ended decades of warfare between the north and the south. Sudan has reportedly said it is withdrawing from the talks, and has complained to the UN and the African Union over what it described as South Sudan?s ?aggression.?

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