Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is traveling to Sudan during the congressional recess. The trip is in preparation for the African nation's Jan. 9 referendum, which could recreate Southern Sudan as an independent country.

Kerry, who visited Darfur in April 2009, will hold meetings in Khartoum and Juba, according to the committee.

"Every reliable source indicates that Southern Sudan will vote for separation, dividing Africa's largest country and taking with it some 80 percent of known Sudanese oil reserves," Kerry said in a statement Thursday. "The critical choice that leaders in both North and South face is between a future of peaceful co-existence or a return to chaos and war in a place tragically familiar with both. … America must help North and South Sudan find a peaceful path forward."

The trip follows a visit by actor and peace activist George Clooney to Capitol Hill last week, where he met with Kerry for an hour to discuss Sudan.