Wed, Jan 12, 2011 - Page 3 News List

MOFA keeps an eye on south Sudan referendum

NEW ALLY?A Department of African Affairs official said if the plebiscite leads to independence, the government would consider officially recognizing the new country

By Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  Staff reporter

The government is closely monitoring this week’s referendum in south Sudan and would consider recognizing the region as an independent state if the referendum passes, a senior Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) official said yesterday.

“Barring unexpected developments, the referendum is expected to pass,” Department of African Affairs Deputy Director-General Bruno Shen (沈真宏) told a regular press briefing, adding that this assessment was based on media reports and information gathered by the ministry’s offices abroad.

The plebiscite on whether to break off from Sudan is part of a 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement aimed at ending decades of war between the Arab-dominated northern government and rebels from the predominantly Christian south.

Despite expectations that the referendum will result in a call for independence, Shen said there remained a lot of uncertainty over the creation of a new state in the largest country in Africa.

If the referendum passed, the new state would likely declare independence on July 9.

Sudan could try to exhaust all means available to impede the establishment of a new state by using, for example, the lack of consensus on border demarcation as an excuse, so as to not let the oil-rich south secede, Shen said.

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has pledged to respect the results of the referendum and maintain peace with south Sudan, but his government in Khartoum and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, which governs in south Sudan, still must agree on issues such as border demarcation, responsibility for the country’s foreign debt and sharing of oil production, among other matters.

“Border demarcation, share of oil interests … would remain issues, while how they will be resolved is the prerogative of the Sudanese government,” Shen said.

China is one of the biggest importers of oil from Sudan, whose southern region accounts for about 80 percent of its oil reserves.

Asked if Taiwan would recognize a new state if the referendum passed, Shen said the ministry would seriously study the matter.

In other news, Shen urged owners of Taiwanese fishing ship companies to consider buying insurance policies to protect themselves against the loss of ships, cargo or crew to pirates in view of the increasing number of incidents of Taiwanese fishing ships being hijacked by Somalia pirates in recent years.

The UK-based consultancy Axon Group has shown interest in entering the Taiwanese market, with a trade show scheduled in the near future to introduce its piracy insurance service, Shen said.

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