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South Sudan to withdraw troops from Heglig oil field in Sudan

South Sudan President Salva Kiir has announced the withdrawal of troops from the Heglig oil field, easing an escalating crisis with neighbor Sudan.

Sudan heglig south sudan 2012 4 11Enlarge
An image grab taken from footage obtained by AFP shows Sudanese troops celebrating next to a burned military vehicle on March 29, 2012, one day after recapturing Sudan's southern oil center of Heglig following fighting with South Sudanese forces along the border. Southern troops have once again seized the Heglig oilfields, parts of which are claimed by both countries. (-/AFP/Getty Images)

South Sudan will withdraw troops from the Heglig oil field, President Salva Kiir has announced, easing a crisis with neighbor Sudan that appeared edging towards all-out war.

South Sudanese troops last week seized Heglig, which is on the border between the two countries. Heglig, a major oil producing area, is internationally recognized as Sudan's territory, but South Sudan has claimed it.

A statement from President Kiir said South Sudan still believes that Heglig is part of the south's territory, and that its final status should be determined by international arbitration, the Associated Press reported.

"The Republic of South Sudan announces that the SPLA (Southern army) troops have been ordered to withdraw from Panthou-Heglig," Information Minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin said, reading out a presidential statement, according to Agence France-Presse.

"An orderly withdrawal will commence immediately and shall be completed within three days," the statement said.

More from GlobalPost: South Sudan, Sudan move perilously close to war

South Sudan has accused its northern neighbor of using the Heglig oil field as a base for launching attacks, the BBC reported. 

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon called South Sudan's occupation of Heglig illegal, and also told Sudan to stop bombing the South.

Prior to the president's announcement, GlobalPost's correspondent in South Sudan reported that a South Sudan army commander said he does not intend to withdraw troops from the Heglig oil field and he is prepared to fight.

Sudan President Omar al-Bashir has recently made belligerent statements that appeared to draw the two countries closer to war.

Bashir vowed to teach his newly independent southern neighbor "a final lesson by force."

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/africa/120420/south-sudan-withdraw-troops-heglig-oil-field