Yambio — Sudan wants neighbouring South Sudan to disarm rebels operating north of the border before allowing the export of southern crude through its territory to resume, Juba's Minister of Petroleum and Mining said Thursday.
Stephen Dhieu Dau said that such "impossible demands" were in contravention of a Cooperation Agreement signed in September, between South Sudan's President Salva Kiir and his Sudanese counterpart Omar al-Bashir on oil, security and other issues.
But Minister Dau said Khartoum's new demands were not included in the 27 September deal, which was endorsed by UN Security Council. The Council's 2046 resolution after the two sides almost returned to fall-out war in April had threatened both sides with sanctions if they failed to resolve the outstanding issues related to South Sudan's independence.
Khartoum has insisted that security elements of African-Union mediated deal negotiated in Ethiopia, must be implemented before it will allow southern crude to run through its territory for the first time since January.
The security tract of the deal provided that a demilitarised buffer zone established either side of a non-binding AU-proposed border and that both sides stop any support to rebel groups operating in the other's territory.
However, a meeting of the defence ministers in Juba last week ended with both sides blaming each other that no progress had been made. Khartoum is especially concerned that South Sudan sever ties with rebels fighting in the Sudanese border states of Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile.
"Sudan is making completely impossible demands" Dau told Sudan Tribune, in reference to Khartoum's apparent demand that the South Sudan army (SPLA) disarm the rebels north of the border
"These rebel groups are not in South Sudan. They are fighting them inside Sudanese territory. So they are telling us to go and disarm them in Sudan. If we accept, they will definitely come out again and tell the world look, they have come into our territory and the international community will certainly [say] yes we have crossed international border. This is why we are not accepting this condition", Dau explained.
Despite the setback the minister said preparations to resume oil production will continue until when the leadership of the two countries reach an understanding.
"At the ministry level, we will continue to prepare for resumption of oil production. Our technicians are already on the ground. We have those who are now supervising construction of the oil refinery and those working with international company on technical matters", Dau said.
South Sudan President Salva Kiir has also accused neighbouring Sudan of raising "new demands" and unilaterally blocking resumption of oil production and export through Sudan.
In a speech broadcast by state media outlets on Wednesday, Kiir said that oil production had been due to resume on 15 November but this "did not take place because the government of Sudan decided to make new additional security demands."
"They want us to disarm their rebel groups who are fighting them inside Sudan. And because this is not in the security arrangement of the September agreement, we said no. So they decided unilaterally to block resumption of the oil production which we agreed in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia," Kiir said in a speech broadcast on state media.
Kiir made the remarks on Tuesday at a public briefing in Melut County, Upper Nile State, where he was laying down a foundation stone for the construction of South Sudan's first oil refinery.
"Khartoum have suddenly decided to change their minds and decided that we should again begin discussions", Kiir added.
South Sudan took with it three quarters of Sudan's oil production when it declared independence in July 2011 but the infrastructure needed to export the oil remained in the north leaving the nascent nation needing to strike a transit fee deal with Khartoum.
Under the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement that paved the way for South Sudan's independence, southern oil was split 50:50 between a Government of National Unity in Khartoum - consisting of Sudan's ruling party and former rebels the SPLM - and the autonomous Government of South Sudan.
President Kiir heads both South Sudan's ruling SPLM and the SPLA - the country's army. During the civil war, however, the SPLA/SPLM also had members from north Sudan, including divisions in South Kordofan and Blue Nile States, who signed up to SPLM's vision of a secular, federal and democratic "New Sudan".
However, when in January 2011 South Sudanese voted overwhelmingly for independence members of the SPLM in north Sudan former the SPLM-N and began fighting the government again after attempts to disarm them before key elements of the CPA for the Two Areas were implemented.
Juba says that since independence it has cut off military ties with their former comrades, who have since formed an alliance with the three main Darfur rebel groups after Khartoum ripped a framework agreement signed by the two sides in mid 2011.