(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama released an audio recording Tuesday calling for an end to the escalation of violence in the border regions of Sudan ahead of next month's secession of South Sudan.
Over the last month, the areas of Abyei and South Kordofan have seen intense fighting between militia groups aligned with South Sudan's government and the Sudan army.
The U.N. estimates nearly 150,000 people have been displaced and places the blame squarely on Khartoum, which has been carrying out systematic bombings of villages as well as occupying the regions and burning and looting homes. There is a fear that South Kordofan, in particular, could turn into another Darfur.
In his audio message, Obama backed up Hillary Clinton's threats to the Bashir regime that its actions risk keeping Sudan on the state-sponsored terror list and keeping up sanctions, even after the South's secession.
"Today, I want to speak directly to Sudanese leaders," Obama said. "You must know that if you fulfill your obligations and choose peace, the U.S. will take the steps we have pledged towards normal relations. However, those who flout their international obligations will face more pressure and isolation and they will be held accountable for their actions."
Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir is under tremendous internal pressure from hardliners in his government. Many view him as the president who lost one third of the country, and most importantly, its oil-producing region.
Already, Khartoum has seen protests and unhappiness from the general population because some of the subsidies on food and oil are being phased out in anticipation of the loss of revenue after the split.
Being inflexible on negotiating the border areas but "allowing" the South's secession to happen next month, is seen as Bashir -- who is wanted in the Hague for war crimes and genocide charges -- trying to balance the internal politics of Sudan and the demands of the international community.
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