UNITED NATIONS: The United States said Thursday that Sudan's refusal to accept a demilitarized zone with South Sudan risks sparking "outright conflict" between the rivals.
The warning was given by US ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, as the UN Security Council sought ways to pressure the two sides to meet a new September 22 deadline to reach a peace deal.
Clashes have erupted between Sudan and South Sudan this year along the frontier they have failed to settle after the South's independence in July 2011.
The United States has been particularly critical of the Khartoum government for refusing to accept the demilitarized zone and border monitoring mechanism proposed by African Union mediators.
"It risks the resumption of outright conflict," Rice told reporters after a Security Council meeting on the tensions. South Sudan has accepted a buffer zone map.
Rice said it was "equally disappointing" that Khartoum refused to implement an accord on sharing oil revenues with South Sudan until all differences between the two have been settled.
Revenues from oil reserves that straddle the disputed frontier are crucial to both governments.
Khartoum forces and rebels in the South fought a two decade civil war up to 2006 in which two million people died.
Since South Sudan's independence, the two have failed to agree on a border, the status of the disputed Abyei region, the oil revenues and nationality issues.
They missed one August 2 deadline set by the African Union and UN Security Council to reach an accord or face possible economic sanctions. Now the AU has set a September 22 target and new talks have started in Addis Ababa, which diplomats said should include a meeting between the presidents of the two on September 15.
"Council members regretted that Sudan and South Sudan have failed to reach agreement by the deadline of August 2, but they equally expressed hope that the recent negotiating efforts will result in substantive progress," said Peter Wittig, Germany's UN ambassador and Security Council president for September.
"The United States is deeply concerned about the apparent lack of urgency" shown by both sides, said Rice, while insisting that Sudan's acceptance of a buffer zone was crucial for making progress.
UN envoy Haile Menkerios also stressed the growing humanitarian urgency in Sudan's South Kordofan and Blue Nile states, where government forces are battling rebels formerly allied to South Sudan, diplomats said.
The Sudan government has severely restricted access to aid agencies despite a deal with the United Nations, the African Union and the Arab League. Sudan's diplomats have denied there is a humanitarian crisis.
But Rice said hundreds of thousands are in "desperate need" in Blue Nile and South Kordofan. "We continue to receive reports that tens of thousands of people have become newly displaced due to renewed fighting," the US ambassador added.
"Given the severity of the humanitarian crisis, a business as usual approach, which is what we seem to sense from Khartoum, is intolerable," the US envoy said. "Sudan has a responsibility to care for its own people in the two areas."