Tuesday, 31 January 2012

South Sudan insists on border deal for oil

South Sudan has demanded that a border agreement with Sudan should be signed before it restarts oil exports, amid a growing row over the situation along their boundary.

On 29th January, South Sudanese Oil Minister Stephen Dhieu Dau said that “oil production will restart when we have a comprehensive agreement and all the deals are signed”. The country has shut down all its oil production over the past few weeks after Sudan started taking oil in lieu of fees which it claims are owed by South Sudan.

The north controls the oil export pipelines but most of the actual production is concentrated in the south. After the south became independent last July, this became a major point of contention between the two Sudans. Oil accounts for 98% of South Sudan's budget, so the oil shutdown will have serious economic effects; however, the north is also heavily dependent on oil transit and export fees.

South Sudanese officials are now demanding that the sides settle a whole host of issues before oil exports restart. One of the most significant is the status of the broder and the disputed region of Abyei. “Sudan must recognize the 1956 border, which means they must give back all the areas under occupation,” according to Dau.

This would mean handing over control of Abyei, a nexus for local rebellions and cattle raids which have killed hundreds in recent months. Juba has accused Khartoum of supporting local gunmen who have rampaged through the border region; the north, in turn, accuses the south of backing insurgents who were affiliated with the ruling southern party but were left in Sudan after the secession agreement.

The UN has called on both sides to pull back from Abyei, insisting that the presence of police and security forces there was destabilising the border situation. However with the UN peacekeeping force there still under-strength and unable to control the region, neither side is willing to pull back until it has secured a favourable verdict on the border region and its oil wealth.

Sources: Telegraph, Reuters, Sudan Tribune

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