Sudan-South Sudan: After Tentative Oil Agreement, Focus of Talks Turns to Security

On Saturday, two days after the expiration of a United Nations Security Council deadline, Sudan and South Sudan reached a provisional deal on oil revenue sharing. Oil has been one of the main sources of tension between the two sides after South Sudan became independent in July 2011: South Sudan holds most of the oil reserves, but Sudan controls key pipeline and port infrastructure. Both sides have suffered economically due to the absence of a revenue sharing framework, and South Sudan’s shutdown of oil production in January contributed to the pain on both sides. Yesterday, South Sudan announced it will restart production in September.

The oil agreement has generated substantial international enthusiasm – see statements from the UN, the US, and China – but it does not mean that the two sides’ disputes are over. The countries are scheduled to return to the negotiating table on August 26, and the focus turns now to security.

Details of the oil agreement:

[AU mediator Thabo] Mbeki gave no financial details of the deal, but South Sudan’s delegation said Juba would pay a weighted average of under $10 per barrel. It has also offered a $3.2 billion package to compensate Sudan for the loss of most of its oil reserves to the South. It had previously offered $2.6 billion.

Sudan itself lowered its transit fee demand to around $22 a barrel, from an initial $36, according to a position paper published by SUNA. It also wants compensation of $3.02 billion, among other demands, Suna added.

“The parties understand very well that it would be important that by the time this oil starts flowing again, the necessary security arrangements should be in place,” Mbeki said.

Sudan said the oil deal would be implemented only after a security arrangement had been reached, after the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan ended at the end of August, the state news agency SUNA reported.

I was not able to find the position paper at SUNA, but here are English and Arabic statements on the deal from the site. In an indication of how keenly focused on security Khartoum is, the Arabic statement stresses that South Sudan must “cut its link with the [rebel] movements in Darfur, Blue Nile, and South Kordofan.” As I’ve written before, the regime in Khartoum strongly prioritizes security issues, perhaps out of a need to placate hardliners within its own camp.

Finally, a reaction from Darfur:

Rebels in Sudan’s Darfur region will become victims of improved relations between Khartoum and Juba as South Sudan reduces its support for the insurgency, Darfur’s top official said on Tuesday.

In an interview with AFP, Eltigani Seisi also said security forces used excessive force last week against “innocent civilians” protesting high prices in Darfur. At least eight people were shot dead.

Seisi heads the Darfur Regional Authority set up to implement a peace deal last year between the Khartoum regime and an alliance of rebel splinter factions.

He said that although security has improved “very much” since the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur, over the past two or three months rebels outside the peace process crossed into Darfur from South Sudan to launch attacks.

My sense is that security issues could prove even harder to resolve than oil fees. What do you think?

4 thoughts on “Sudan-South Sudan: After Tentative Oil Agreement, Focus of Talks Turns to Security

  1. They’re certainly easier to make mistakes over and harder to verify than oil flow and money. If the oil’s flowing and money’s coming in, the oil’s flowing and money’s coming in. If rebels are fighting around a border, it might mean that they’re being backed by one state or that the state is simply too weak to control that border properly (and that’s not even looking at different factions within the state). Also I suspect there’s a lot less international pressure over security issues.

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