China to send special envoy to push for talks in violence-hit South Sudan

PUBLISHED : Friday, 27 December, 2013, 2:47am
UPDATED : Friday, 27 December, 2013, 2:47am

China will send its special envoy for Africa to South Sudan to help push talks as heavy fighting between government forces and rebels raged yesterday in the world's newest country.

Foreign Minister Wang Yi said the envoy would head to South Sudan "soon" to communicate with all parties.

Wang did not name the envoy, but he was likely referring to Zhong Jianhua, an urbane veteran diplomat who has deep experience of the conflict in South Sudan.

"China is highly concerned about the evolving situation in South Sudan," Wang said.

China has extensive energy interests in South Sudan. It is already the biggest investor in South Sudan's oilfields through state-owned giants China National Petroleum Corp and Sinopec.

Thousands are believed to have been killed in more than a week of violence pitting troops loyal to President Salva Kiir against those backing his rival Riek Machar, a former vice president who was sacked in July.

Amid reports of bodies piled in mass graves, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged the rivals to negotiate an end to the violence in the nation, which won independence from Sudan just two years ago.

The unrest has taken on an ethnic dimension, pitting Kiir's Dinka tribe against Machar's Nuer. Ban called the ethnic attacks a "grave violation of human rights" and reiterated that those responsible would be "held accountable".

Fighting has spread to half the country's 10 states, the UN says, with huge numbers fleeing into the countryside and others flooding UN bases seeking shelter from the worsening violence.

The UN estimated at least 90,000 people have been displaced in the past 10 days alone.

The UN said aid agencies needed US$166 million over the next three months to distribute food, manage camps for the displaced and provide health and sanitation.

Agence France-Presse, Reuters, Associated Press