August 4, 2012 ·1 Comments
Sudanese workers inspect burnt out oil pipes at the oil-rich border town of Heglig, Sudan (Photo: Abd Raouf/AP).
ADDIS ABABA — Sudan and South Sudan have hammered out a deal on how to share their oil wealth, one of a series of disputes that brought the rivals to the brink of all-out war this year.
“The parties have agreed on all of the financial arrangements regarding oil, so that’s done,” African Union mediator Thabo Mbeki said on Saturday after talks in the Ethiopian capital.
The two countries had faced an August 2 deadline set by the United Nations to resolve their differences on oil and borders, and Mbeki said they would meet next month to try to find a compromise on the disputed region of Abyei.
Mbeki, the former South African president, said a timetable would now be drawn up for the resumption of oil production and exports which are vital to the economies of both deeply impoverished countries.
The AU has been mediating long-running talks to try to resolve a series of disputes that have flared since South Sudan became independent in July 2011 following a 2005 peace deal that ended one of Africa’s longest civil wars.
Landlocked South Sudan took with it three-quarters of the oil held by the previously united nation, but the pipelines and processing facilities remained in Sudan.
And the two sides were unable to agree on how much South Sudan should pay to export its crude through a northern pipeline and port, leading the government in Juba to shut down production in January after Khartoum began seizing the oil in lieu of payment.
Oil generates about 98 per cent of South Sudan’s revenue and the move crippled the economies of both countries.
Despite the oil agreement, South Sudan’s chief negotiator Pagan Amum accused Khartoum of violating a peace plan drawn up by the African Union in April urging both sides to reach a comprehensive deal on all outstanding issues.
Mbeki’s announcement came hours after US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called on the two Sudans to strike an urgent compromise, saying they “remain inextricably linked”.
“It is urgent that both sides, north and south, follow through and reach timely agreements on all outstanding issues, including oil revenue sharing, security, citizenship and border demarcation,” Clinton said after meeting with South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir in Juba.
Clinton, on a tour of Africa, spent about three hours on Friday in Juba, a rapidly growing city of simple tin-roof huts alongside the White Nile.
Mbeki said Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir and Kiir would meet next month to find an agreement on Abyei, whose status was the most sensitive issue left unresolved before South Sudan’s independence.
Ahead of the agreement announced by Mbeki, Sudan had lowered its demand for oil fees from South Sudan. Sudan had been seeking up to $US36 ($A34.57) a barrel in fees, but in a position paper released on Thursday said it was proposing $US22.20 a barrel compared with $US7.61 offered by South Sudan.
Sudan accuses the South of supporting insurgents on its territory, a charge that analysts believe despite denials by Juba, which in turn accuses Khartoum of backing rebels south of the border.
The two countries fought along their undemarcated frontier in March and April, sparking fears of wider war and leading to a UN Security Council resolution that ordered a ceasefire.
Mbeki said an agreement had also been reached between Sudan, the United Nations, the AU and the Arab League to allow for humanitarian access in the conflict-wracked Blue Nile and South Kordofan states.
Prolonged clashes between Sudanese forces and rebel groups in the two disputed territories have left thousands in a “desperate state” and in need of emergency aid, according to the UN.
August 4, 2012Follow @somalilandpress
By Hassan Ali