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Sudan freezes oil and security deals with South

11 june 2013, 10:56
0
Sudanese Information Minister Ahmed Bilal Osman. ©AFP
Sudanese Information Minister Ahmed Bilal Osman. ©AFP
Sudan on Sunday put on hold nine security and economic pacts with South Sudan, including on vital oil shipments, but said Khartoum remained committed to good relations if Juba ended support for rebels, AFP reports.

"We will stop all nine agreements, not only oil," Information Minister Ahmed Bilal Osman said at a news conference.

"We are still committed to have good relations with South Sudan and if they are serious about implementing the nine agreements we can return to cooperate with them."

His comments followed an order on Saturday from President Omar al-Bashir to shut the pipeline carrying South Sudanese crude for export.

He had earlier warned the South over backing rebels, who analysts say humiliated the authorities with recent attacks.

South Sudan's government in Juba denies supporting insurgents in the north, and in turn has accused Khartoum of backing rebels on southern territory.

Osman, along with Sudan's intelligence chief Mohammed Atta, confirmed that the oil shutdown had begun and would take up to 60 days.

Despite that, Osman said some South Sudanese oil had already reached the Port Sudan export terminal and the South is free to sell it -- as long as it pays the fees owed to Khartoum.

After months of intermittent clashes, Sudan and South Sudan agreed in early March to detailed timetables for normalising relations by setting up a border buffer zone and implementing eight other key pacts.

These allowed for a free flow of people and goods across the undemarcated and disputed frontier, and a resumption of oil shipments which South Sudan ended early last year after accusing Khartoum of theft.

South Sudan became independent two years ago under a peace deal that ended a 22-year civil war. It separated with most of Sudan's oil production but the export infrastructure remained under northern control.

The two sides had not been able to agree on how much Juba would pay to use the pipeline.

Both impoverished nations stand to earn billions of dollars if the oil flows.

In March, Juba and Khartoum finally agreed on detailed timetables to set in motion all the deals, which had been held up for months because of Sudan's concerns that the South was backing rebels.

A month later, Bashir visited Juba, symbolising an easing of tensions at the time, and the South's oil wells resumed pumping the crude which slowly began its journey to Port Sudan.

But Atta told reporters that as recently as last Friday fuel tankers destined for the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) insurgents in South Kordofan state had left from the South.

He also alleged that rebels had "training camps" in South Sudan, which he said also provides weapons, ammunition, medical care for wounded, and travel documents for rebel leaders.

The SPLM-N, which fought alongside the civil war rebel movement which now rules South Sudan, has been battling Khartoum for two years in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states.

A resident of Kadugli, the South Kordofan capital, told AFP that heavy weapons fire could be heard on Sunday morning as the SPLM-N and government forces battled outside the town.

South Sudan, in comments made ahead of the Khartoum news conference, vowed to work with the north despite its moves to close the pipeline.

"We will continue to implement the terms of the cooperation agreement," South Sudanese Information Minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin told reporters.

However, Juba's army claimed Sudanese troops had pushed southwards across the demilitarised buffer zone into South Sudan's Upper Nile state.

"It is unacceptable, and the sooner they withdraw the better," South Sudan army spokesman Philip Aguer told reporters, adding his government would complain to United Nations peacekeepers.

In Khartoum, Osman accused the South's army of failing to pull out of six areas along the border, which is monitored by several dozen observers from both countries and the UN.

In a March report, the Small Arms Survey, a Swiss-based independent research project, said it found no evidence of post-independence weapons supplies from Juba to the SPLM-N.

However, it said there are "some reports" that SPLM-N and other rebels are benefiting from logistical, food, fuel and other assistance.

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