21 November 2012

Sudan 'In Contacts' With Juba to Break Oil, Security Deadlock

Khartoum — Sudan and South Sudan are holding contacts to resume production of the latter's oil after it has been put on hold due to a stalemate in border security talks between the two countries, both sides confirmed on Wednesday.

The official spokesperson of Sudan's ministry of foreign affairs said Al-Obaid Adama Marawih told the daily newspaper Al-Sahafah that the contacts are being held at top levels and may soon yield an agreement on how to overcome the obstacles facing the implementation of the agreements the two countries signed on 27 September.

The eight agreements signed in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa covered a host of issues resulting from the secession of South Sudan from Sudan in July last year, including resumption of South Sudan oil exports via Sudan after the former shutdown its oil output in January after a row with Khartoum on transit fees. Also included is a deal on border security and establishment of a 10-km buffer demilitarized zone along the 1800-km common borders between the two countries.

Talks between the two countries on how to implement the security deal, which Khartoum considers to be its top priority, collapsed last week after Sudan insisted that South Sudan sever its alleged connections to the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement North (SPLM-N), which has been fighting the Sudanese government in the country's border regions of South Kordofan and Blue Nile since last year.

South Sudan's president Salva Kiir Mayardit said this week that his country has decided to delay preparations to resume oil production after Sudan included new demands in the security talks, accusing Khartoum of trying to use his country as an excuse for its defeats in South Kordofan, where the rebels recently escalated their military activities.

Marawih told the Sudanese daily newspaper Al-Sahafah that Sudan approached the South Sudanese embassy in Khartoum on Tuesday and conducted contacts with many senior officials in Juba including President Salva Kiir Mayardit about reactivating the agreements.

Marawih stressed that so far Sudan did not tell South Sudan that it will not allow resumption of oil exports. "So far we did not tell them that we will prevent resumption of oil flow, but we told them that any security breakdown along the border after resumption of oil exports will hurt the entire operation. It is better that we resolve differences in the security dossier first"

The Sudanese diplomat said that his country wants to establish a buffer demilitarized zone as stipulated under the agreement. He added that African Union mediators who brokered the deal are trying to persuade South Sudan to implement it.

South Sudan's chief negotiator Pagan Amum also confirmed that they are in contacts with Khartoum officials to resume oil operations. He however accused the Sudanese government of preventing South Sudanese oil from reaching international markets.

Amum pointed out that they made the decision to halt preparations to resume oil production on basis of media reports about statements of Sudanese officials who accused South Sudan of continuing to support SPLM-N which fought as part of its army during the north-south civil war in the former united Sudan.

In a related development, the Sudanese ministry of oil announced that it will not allow South Sudan's oil to be exported via Sudanese ports unless security arrangements are sorted out first. The state minister for oil, Faisal Hamad Abdulla, said on Wednesday that settling the security issue will serve as a guarantee for implementing other economic agreements.

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