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 earlier this year.
“The parties have agreed on all of the financial arrangements regarding oil, so that’s done,” African Union (AU) mediator Thabo Mbeki said early yesterday after talks in the Ethiopian capital.
The two countries had faced an Aug. 2 deadline set by the UN 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 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.
“What will remain, given that there is an agreement, is to then discuss the next steps as to when the oil companies should be asked to prepare for resumption of production and export,” he said.
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 last year, 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 Juba should pay to export its crude through a northern pipeline and port, leading the South to shut down production in January, after Khartoum began seizing the oil in lieu of payment.
Oil generates about 98 percent 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 AU in April urging both sides to reach a comprehensive deal on all outstanding issues.
“The government of Sudan continues to violate the road map and continues to bomb South Sudan,” Amum told reporters.
“The [AU] peace and security council in its road map and resolution decided that they would impose sanctions on Sudan if they fail to comply. Sudan has failed to comply,” he said.
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 South Sudanese President Salva Kiir in Juba.
Clinton, on a tour of Africa, spent about three hours on Friday in the steamy heat of Juba — a rapidly growing city largely made up of simple tin-roof huts strung out alongside the White Nile river.
“There must always come a point where we look forward and recognize the need to stop fighting over past wrongs so we can build toward a new future,” she said.
“It’s time ... to dig wells instead of graves,” she added, quoting a South Sudanese bishop. “Time to reach an agreement that allows both countries to prosper.”