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Sudan Tribune

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Chinese official holds rare meeting with Sudan’s SPLM-N leaders

January 30, 2012 (KHARTOUM) – The Chinese ambassador to Addis Ababa Xie Xiaoyan met on Monday with the chairman of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement North (SPLM-N) Malik Agar and the secretary general Yasir Arman to discuss the release of workers kidnapped over the weekend during clashes with Sudan Armed Forces (SAF).

Chinese workers who escaped after being abducted arrive at Khartoum Airport January 30, 2012 (Reuters)
Chinese workers who escaped after being abducted arrive at Khartoum Airport January 30, 2012 (Reuters)
In a statement released by SPLM-N, ambassador Xiaoyan and two other officials who attended the talks were instructed by Beijing to follow up on the situation relating to the missing workers employed by Sinohydro Corporation Ltd that is constructing roads in South Kordofan.

It was not clear from the press release where the meeting took place. Last year Sudan asked the Interpol to issue Red notices for Arman and Agar so that they would be arrested if they travelled abroad, on charges of rebelling against the state and disturbing peace.

The rebel movement admitted that they captured more than two dozen Chinese workers during their military assault on the town of Al-Abbasiya, 390 miles (630 kilometres) south of Khartoum, but promised to guarantee their safety.

The governor of South Kordofan, Ahmed Haroun, announced on Sunday that 14 of the 29 Chinese hostages had been freed through an operation carried out by SAF. He added that they were relocated to North Kordofan’s capital city of Al-Obayid.

Today Sudanese authorities changed the story and said that SAF freed 13 of the hostages, who were flown to Khartoum on Monday along with the 23 who weren’t taken hostage.

But according to Xinhua news agency there were 47 Chinese workers at the camp when it was attacked. 29 were abducted and 18 others fled to neighbouring areas.

The Sudanese army found 17 of those who had fled nearby, although one remains missing and had reportedly suffered gunshot wounds, according to the Global Times newspaper.

The other 17 workers who have travelled to Khartoum were working at another camp, Chinese media said.

Today the SAF spokesperson Al-Sawarmi Khalid Sa’ad was quoted by Sudan news agency SUNA as saying that they sent reinforcements to South Kordofan to “cleanse” it of SPLM-N forces.

Sa’ad warned that the army holds SPLM-N responsible for the safety and well being of the 29 Chinese workers.

According to SPLM-N statement, the Chinese ambassador “stressed the concern of China for the safety of the Chinese workers and for their return home to their families and that China is not part of the conflict in Sudan but rather the workers came for development projects in Sudan”.

The SPLM-N officials on the other hand promised Xiaoyan that they will “cooperate fully” with Beijing to secure the safe return of the workers “as it is the time of the Chinese New Year celebration and the SPLM-N would like those workers to be with their families during this time”.

They also requested that China ensures that its workers be moved “outside of the war zone in South Kordofan and Blue Nile” while stressing that it welcomes the contribution of China in development but only after the war ends.

“The SPLM-N calls upon China to contribute to the humanitarian operation and to ask Khartoum government to open safe corridors for humanitarian operations and access, which has been denied by the National Congress leadership, and to call again upon China to support the SPLM-N’s demand of an international investigation on the war crimes; to stop the genocide by Khartoum and the impunity which encourages more crimes against Sudanese people; and to support the demand of the SPLM-N of a holistic approach that will end the tragedy and misery of the Sudanese people and bring a just peace to Sudan. Likewise, the SPLM-N asked the Chinese delegation to convey to Khartoum that they should stop any military operations in the area where the Chinese are present until their safe evacuation”.

The rebel movement said the Chinese envoy “expressed the appreciation of the Chinese Communist Party and the Chinese Government of the SPLM-N’s understanding and cooperation and the need to continue the dialogue and the relations between the two”.

China’s ambassador to Khartoum Luo Xiaoguang urged the Sudanese government to work for the release of the workers.

“We hope that the Sudanese government will continue doing its utmost to bring back the missing and abducted Chinese nationals as soon as possible,” Luo said, according to Xinhua.

SAF has been battling SPLM-N forces in South Kordofan since June 2011 after a dispute over the governor elections in which Haroun, the incumbent governor, was running against his deputy Abdel-Aziz al-Hilu, who is now leading the rebellion.