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South Sudan downplays bid to join Arab League

October 6, 2014 (JUBA) – The South Sudanese government has dismissed reports alleging that it was making secret arrangements to join the Arab League as “false” and misleading”.

South Sudan's foreign affairs minister, Barnaba Marial Benjamin (Photo: Getty Images)
South Sudan’s foreign affairs minister, Barnaba Marial Benjamin (Photo: Getty Images)
Foreign affairs minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin told Sudan Tribune on Monday that he visited Egypt in response to an invitation extended by the Egyptian government to president Salva Kiir during his visit last month to the United Nations General Assembly in New York, where he held “fruitful” talks with his Egyptian counterpart, Abdel Fattah El-Sisi.

Benjamin, a close ally of president Kiir, described the visit as a successful mission during which he was able to meet his Egyptian counterpart, Sabeh Shukri, with whom he discussed bilateral matters.

The minister says he met all relevant government officials and held talks on issues related to intensifying efforts to promote current bilateral ties, as well as briefing Egyptian officials on the current situation in the country and the government’s efforts to resolve the conflict.

He said efforts to join the Arab League was not part of his mission of my visit, adding that it was important for South Sudanese people to be aware of “the need to establish strong relations with other countries, especially on issues related to economic and diplomatic matters”.

“We are not an island. We are part of this world in which all countries support cooperation,” said Benjamin.

Other issues the minister discussed with the Egyptian government was the use of Nile water flows, during which he explained that South Sudan has abundant rainfalls on which it depends for cultivating crops and agricultural activities.

Benjamin said he had received a positive response from the Egyptian government following his briefing on the current crisis, which erupted in mid-December last year after a political dispute in the country’s ruling party (SPLM) turned violent, adding that Egypt had agreed to provide all necessary support.

“I briefed the Egyptian government on the current situation and what the government is doing to resolve it and asked their support to the current peace talks by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD). Their response was positive.
“They accepted to provide all the necessary support. As for the reports about joining the

Meanwhile, foreign affairs spokesperson Mawien Makol told Sudan Tribune in a separate interview that the Egyptian government had also pledged to continue providing support to South Sudan in other areas, including health, education and trade.

Makol also hailed the visit a success, saying it was part of efforts aimed at establishing cordial relations with countries which have development interests in South Sudan.

He said Kiir would also likely visit the country next month.

“The minister went for preparation of the visit of the president. He met his counterpart during the visit and other senior officials within [the] Egyptian government, with whom they exchanged views on bilateral matters and other issues that are important to the two countries,” he said.

“They discussed issues related to water, education, health, trade and other areas in which the two countries can work together in cooperation in pursuit of issues which are beneficial to the two nations and their citizens,” he added.

(ST)

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