Britain praises Khartoum 'balanced' role in South Sudan conflict

Simmonds comments come after two-day visit to Khartoum

KHARTOUM - Britain Thursday praised Sudan's role in supporting efforts to bring peace to its former foe South Sudan, where thousands have been killed over the past month.
"I very much commend Sudan for the balanced role it has played so far in support for the IGAD-led negotiations," Mark Simmonds, the British minister for Africa, told reporters after a two-day visit to Khartoum.
Sudan is one of seven members of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, an East African bloc that is mediating the South Sudanese conflict.
Simmonds said Khartoum has made a "very measured response", by making sure that both sides in South Sudan "understand the necessity firstly to implement a ceasefire and secondly then come to the negotiating table".
The talks, in Ethiopia, are deadlocked as fighting continues between forces loyal to President Salva Kiir and a loose coalition of army defectors and ethnic militia nominally headed by Riek Machar, Kiir's ex-vice president.
South Sudan became independent from Khartoum in 2011 under a peace deal that ended a 22-year civil war.
But tensions continued and the two countries fought periodic border clashes in 2012.
Disputes over oil fees and Khartoum's accusations that Juba supported rebels on northern soil strained relations until a September summit between Kiir and his counterpart, Omar al-Bashir.
The countries adopted a markedly friendly tone after the summit affirmed their commitment to implement a series of economic and security pacts, including a guarantee that southern oil would move through Sudan's pipelines for export via the Red Sea.