UNITED NATIONS, March 13 -- The United States scuttled an attempt on Tuesday by the UN Security Council to endorse an African Union (AU)-backed cooperation agreement reached earlier in the day between Sudan and South Sudan, that included resumption of oil production within two weeks, diplomats said.
It appears to have set off a diplomatic tiff between the Russian and U.S. envoys on the 15-member panel.
"There have been many agreements signed but too few actually implemented," said U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice, adding there were " previously agreed arrangements between the two countries that remain unaddressed and still very much outstanding," citing conflicts in southern Kordofan and the Blue Nile regions.
She urged adoption of a wait-and-see attitude saying, "It will be very clear to all in short order whether or not these agreements are in fact being implemented."
"This is a day of jubilation rather than pessimism, this is a day of optimism," Ambassador Daffa-Alla Elhag Ali Osman of South Sudan told reporters outside the council's chambers. "Today, in the morning the two parties have signed the implementation matrix which represent the road map of the start of the implementation of the nine agreements between the two countries," the ambassador said. "There is no reason whatsoever for anybody in the Security Council to block any outcome from the Security Council to encourage the two parties.
"I think at this juncture the Security Council should continue to encourage both parties to implement the nine agreements which they have already started (adopting)," Osman added.
Ambassador Vitaly Churkin of Russia, this month's president of the council, told reporters the council had been briefed on the accord reached earlier in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, by UN Undersecretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Herve Ladsous and UN Special Envoy Haile Menkarios.
"I was told Ambassador Rice chose to spill out to the media some confidential conversations we had today and did it in a rather bizarre way, from what I hear," he said.
"First of all we have had a Presidential Statement (PRST) drafted by the United States on which work has been going on for weeks," Churkin explained. "But then the situation changed completely because of the progress of the last few days. So as president of the Security Council we proposed a brief press statement to be adopted immediately so we could continue the work on the PRST if this were to be the wish of the United States."
"In fact that idea was supported by a number of members of the Security Council including all members of the P5 (five veto- wielding permanent members) except the United States," Churkin said. "We were even prepared to turn it to the level of press elements which would not be a document at all and would leave more room for a PRST."
A PRST is agreed to by consensus, read out in a formal meeting of the council and becomes an official document of the United Nations, but does not carry the weight of international law as does a resolution, which is voted on at a public meeting.
A Press Statement is agreed to by consensus behind closed doors and read to the media waiting outside.
"It was not we are working against anything we are working for something and in this particular case we are working for the Security Council to try to make a positive contribution to the talks between Sudan and South Sudan," the council president said. "I think the reaction of the U.S. delegation was not reasonable and as a result of that we were not able to have any agreed reaction from the council today."
"We'll see if they are going to produce another, as promised, proposed PRST for us," Churkin said. "We'll see what that draft PRST contains but this was not a constructive way to deal with the work in the Security Council at all, which was displayed by the US delegation."
South Sudan seceded from the rest of Sudan in July 2011 but almost immediately conflict between the two east-central Africa nations flared in border disputes, particularly around Abyie and the Kordofan regions.
Some 75 percent of the oil wealth of Sudan comes from the South but refineries are mostly in the North, so oil has to be pumped from South Sudan to Sudan. An agreement was reached to share the wealth 50 percent, but shortly after getting its independence, South Sudan claimed Sudan was stealing oil, not paying for all it took and it subsequently shut down the pipeline.
Tuesday's agreement in Addis Ababa promised oil to begin flowing in the pipeline once again by March 24.