Sudan, S. Sudan Vow To End Oil Row, But Offer No Concrete Steps

The vice presidents of Sudan and South Sudan pledged on Monday to resolve a conflict over Juba's alleged support for rebels that is threatening cross-border oil flows, but failed to offer any concrete solutions.

Sudan, S. Sudan Vow To End Oil Row, Offer No Concrete Steps
Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir (R) meets with Riek Machar, vice president of the State of South Sudan, in Khartoum (AFP, Asharf Shazly)

By Khalid Abdelaziz

KHARTOUM, 01 July 2013 (Reuters) - Last month, bilateral ties hit a new low when Sudan said it would halt South Sudanese oil exports passing through the north for shipment unless Juba ended support for rebels operating across the shared border. South Sudan denies the claims.

To defuse the situation, South Sudan's vice president, Riek Machar, flew to Khartoum for the first high-level meeting since Sudan's threat to close two cross-border pipelines.

After two days of talks between Machar and Sudan's vice president, Ali Osman Taha, both sides said they wanted to implement a raft of deals allowing southern oil exports to pass through Sudan and to secure their disputed border.

"We are committed (to the agreements) and have the political will to normalise ties with South Sudan," Taha told the talks' final session attended by both delegations.

Machar, who was hugging some Sudanese officials, said both countries wanted to build up trust to make the agreements reality.

"We are happy with the outcome of the talks and if there is any problem, we want to solve it without a mediator," he said.

The two did not say whether oil flows would stop. A joint communiqué only said they had agreed not to support rebels on the other's territory, without proposing any steps or referring to Sudan's threat to halt oil flows.

The neighbours, which fought one of Africa's longest civil wars, ending in 2005, had agreed in March to resume oil flows. Juba had shut its entire crude production in January 2012 when tensions over pipeline fees and disputed territory escalated.

Their latest dispute threatens to hit supplies to Asian buyers such as China National Petroleum Corp, India's ONCG Videsh and Malaysia's Petronas, which run the oilfields in both countries.

Diplomats said they doubted Sudan would close the two cross-border export pipelines because its economy has been suffering without South Sudan's pipeline fees.

Oil used to be the main source for Sudan's budget until the south's secession in July 2011, when Khartoum lost 75 percent of its oil production and its status as an oil exporter overnight. 

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