Sudan rivals ‘to resume pumping oil’

ADDIS ABABA— South Sudan and Sudan have agreed to resume pumping oil after a bitter dispute over fees which saw production shut down more than a year ago.
An oil refinery in South Sudan; Production is due to start soon after the two Sudans reached an agreement in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Net photo.
An oil refinery in South Sudan; Production is due to start soon after the two Sudans reached an agreement in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Net photo.

ADDIS ABABA— South Sudan and Sudan have agreed to resume pumping oil after a bitter dispute over fees which saw production shut down more than a year ago.

The South, which seceded from the rest of Sudan in 2011, will begin oil production again by March 24, under the deal negotiated in Ethiopia.

Both states rely heavily on oil, which is pumped from the South through Sudan’s pipelines for export.

They also agreed to withdraw troops from their border area.

A demilitarised buffer zone is to be set up, with the intention of improving security. Trade deals and a committee to agree on the disputed border were also discussed in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.

However, it is the commitment to get the oil flowing again which will attract the most attention.

South Sudan’s economy has been in collapse since it shut down oil production, with vital development work put on hold, and Sudan has been suffering too.

If this timetable is respected, its economy should benefit from billions of dollars coming from oil transit fees, and from a compensatory payment for allowing South Sudan to secede, our correspondent says.

The timetable would not be necessary if both countries had implemented the agreements on all these matters they signed in September, he adds. As a result many people in both Sudans will wait for the oil to start flowing before they raise their hopes too much.

Asked when the orders would be given to resume oil flows, former South African President Thabo Mbeki, who was mediating between the two sides, told reporters: “The instruction to the companies is D-day [10 March plus 14].”

Asked why a deal to implement the September agreements had been reached now, South Sudanese Information Minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin told the BBC’s Newsday programme it was thanks to the negotiating efforts of Mbeki and the African Union.

“The need for peace between the two countries is something they require in order to live side by side,” he said.

In January 2012, disagreement on sharing oil revenues led South Sudan to halt its 350,000 barrel-per-day output, and halve public spending on everything but salaries.

Ten border crossing points, vital to local traders, will open within a week under the agreement, AFP news agency reports.

Both states said they would withdraw troops from contested border areas.

South Sudan’s army spokesman, Philip Aguer, said soldiers would take around two weeks to withdraw southwards.

Troops must “start moving to the designated areas, 10km [six miles] away from the buffer zone,” Mr Aguer told reporters.

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