Tag Archives: Sudan-South Sudan oil dispute

South Sudan’s Kiir criticises AU over Sudan oil threat

Sudan Tribune

June 10, 2013 (JUBA) – South Sudan leader, Salva Kiir on Monday questioned the credibility of the African Union (AU), saying the continental body failed to take the lead in resolving its current oil row with neighbouring Sudan.

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South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir delivers a speech in the capital Juba, June 10, 2013. (REUTERS/Andreea Campeanu)

Kiir said the 54-member body specifically failed to impose its own recommendations as per its communique, which stipulated that both countries must resolve their differences according a designated time frame before any unilateral decision can be made.

“This latest turn of events brings into question the credibility of the African Union mediators but we remain optimistic that they will intervene accordingly”, Kiir told reporters in the capital, Juba.

“We urge both regional and international governments to diplomatically engage with Sudan in order to protect the lives of the citizens of both nations and to encourage Sudan to engage in peaceful dialogue with their internal rebellion,” he added.

In September last year, Sudan and South Sudan signed a series of cooperation agreements, which covered oil, citizenship rights, security issues, banking, and border trade, among others.

On 25 January, at the AU Peace and Security Council (PSC), convening during the AU Summit in Addis Ababa, adopted a communiqué on Sudan-South Sudan, which among others, stressed the need for he two countries to unconditional implement the 27 September 2012 agreements.

But while Kiir and his Sudan counterpart Omer Hassan Al-Bashir met on the margins of the AU Summit on 27 January, the two failed to make progress on how to implement the 27 September agreements.

Meanwhile, the South Sudanese leader said his government had still not received any official notification from the government of neighbouring Sudan despite its president threatening block its oil flow to export markets.

He warned that any attempt to block the flow of oil to international markets would undermine implementation of a cooperation agreement signed by both leaders in September 2012 as part of attempts to resolve a number of ongoing disputes over post-secession issues.

The South Sudanese president was forced to call an emergency cabinet meeting on Sunday following remarks made by Bashir, in which he ordered his oil minister, Awad al-Jaz, to block the flow of South Sudan’s crude oil to international markets via Sudanese pipelines.

Bashir’s announcement on Saturday came in response to allegations that the new nation supports Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF) rebels fighting Khartoum on multiple fronts.

Kiir said his government had been relying on media reports for information, following the threatened shut down, but had yet to receive any further communication from its northern neighbour on the matter.

“We are reading these statements and orders to block the oil flow from the media, but the oil continues to flow. Sudan cannot just decide to stop the flow. There are certain things and procedures to be followed because it involves other stakeholders. Closing it abruptly will undermine implementation of the cooperation of the agreement”, Kiir told journalists on Monday.

According to the cooperation agreement, however, Khartoum has to inform Juba two months in advance before it can take any decision to shutdown its oil pipelines.

It will be a huge setback, analysts argue, to the agreements brokered by African Union mediation team, should Sudan implement its plan to shut the oil pipeline.


Meanwhile, the South Sudan leader denied his government was providing support to the SRF – a coalition of Sudanese rebel groups fighting to topple the Bashir regime in the war-ravaged region of Darfur and in the two border states of Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile.

“It is not true that we support these groups. Where do we get these facilities when there are a lot of demands and needs to provide basic services to our people? Our people need roads to link them. They need health service. If we have these facilities we will channel them [in]to improving the lives of our people. We will not buy weapons to other armed any other groups”, said Kiir.

He maintained his government was still committed to fully implementing the cooperation agreements, despite ongoing disagreements, saying ultimately it was in the best interests of the two countries to live in peace and develop better relations.

“We are committed to implementing the cooperation [agreements] so that we build mutual trust and live in the two viable states in pursuit of mutual benefits. This is what we are after. We are not after anything that will destabilise any of our neighbours, including the Republic of Sudan”, he said.


The former rebel commander turned politician, who went on to become president after the South gained independence in July 2011, called on South Sudanese people to remain calm and exhibit self-control despite provocative remarks from his Sudanese counterpart and members of his administration.

He also reiterated his government’s commitment to peaceful dialogue.

“While president al-Bashir has declared jihad (holy war) and is mobilising for war, I maintain my pledge to you and the world that I will not take the people of South Sudan unnecessarily back to a state of war. I therefore call you to remain calm and be patient as we work with the African Union (AU) to resolve this impasse with Sudan”, Kiir told reporters.

“There are no benefits for war. We know it. This aggressive attitude of Khartoum is not new and we should not be surprised,” he stressed.



South Sudan says Sudanese troops entered its territory


South Sudan says Sudan troops enter Upper Nile state

Sudanese soldiers in a truck on 24 July 2008 Sudan’s army is battling rebels along the border with South Sudan

South Sudan has accused Sudanese troops of crossing into its territory, as tension between the two states rises.

The troops moved about 10km (six miles) into Upper Nile state, Information Minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin said.

On Saturday, Sudan said it would block oil exports from the South after accusing it of backing rebels fighting President Omar al-Bashir’s government.

But Sudanese officials now say the ban will take effect in 60 days. Oil is vital to the economies of both states.

South Sudan became independent in 2011 after decades of conflict with Khartoum and the two neighbours still disagree on several issues.

‘Wounded rebels’

South Sudan, which gets 98% of its revenues from oil, has massive deposits but is landlocked and reliant on Sudan’s ports for export.

Continue reading the main story

“Start Quote

They [rebels] get supplied with weapons, ammunition, petrol, spare parts for cars, food”

End Quote Mohammed Atta Sudan’s intelligence chief

The two countries have long disputed how much the South should pay to use Sudan’s pipelines.

Mr Benjamin said South Sudan would protest to the African Union (AU) and the United Nations about Sudan’s actions.

“They always violate agreements…. Sudan must be brought to book,” he told the BBC’s Newsday programme.

On Sunday, Sudan’s intelligence chief Mohammed Atta said South Sudan had failed to stop supporting rebels operating in Darfur and two border states.

“They [rebels] get supplied with weapons, ammunition, petrol, spare parts for cars, food… They send their wounded to hospitals in the south. Tens of wounded [rebels] are now being treated in the South,” he said at a press conference in Khartoum, Reuters news agency reports.

Sudan’s Information Minister Ahmed Belal Osman said Sudan planned to close the oil pipelines within 60 days.

However, it would reverse its decision if South Sudan stopped backing the rebels, he said, Reuters reports.

Correspondents say his comments suggest that Sudan is rowing back from a report by state media on Saturday that Mr Bashir had given an order to shut the pipeline.

The Sudanese army is fighting a rebel insurgency in at least three regions.

An umbrella rebel group called the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF) has launched attacks on several towns, briefly occupying the major city of Um Rawaba in central Sudan in April.

Sudan and the South came to the brink of war last year, prompting Juba to shut down production – badly hitting both countries.

It only resumed pumping oil in April.  bbc


Sudan Tribune

(JUBA) – South Sudan on Sunday accused neighbouring Sudan of “making up” claims that the new nation supports rebel groups fighting to topple the northern regime.

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South Sudan’s SPLA soldiers hold up their weapons as they shout at a military base in Bentiu 22 April 2012 (Reuters)

In an interview with Sudan Tribune, the army (SPLA) chief of general staff, described as “unfounded” allegations made by Khartoum, and instead accused the latter of aiding militia groups destabilising the south.

“First all I want to make it very clear that the SPLA is an army of a democratic country. We operate within the legal parameters of the constitution which is clear on foreign relations. Our mandate as defined in the Transitional of the republic of South Sudan is very clear,” said Gen. James Hoth Mai.

He further stressed that the army’s role was to uphold the constitution, defend the sovereignty of the country, protect its citizens and assist government in managing emergency situations.

“We have nothing to do with what is happening in Sudan. We do not provide any support whatsoever. What they are say is simply a cover up for their support to the rebel they wants to use to fight their proxy wars and to divert attention of the Sudanese people from holding them to account for their own failure”, said the senior army official.

The Sudanese leader, Omer Hassan Al Bashir, on Saturday, ordered oil minister Awad al-Jaz to block the pipeline carrying South Sudan’s crude all the way to Red Sea coastal city of Port Sudan.

Bashir, who was speaking in Khartoum state, said this decision was in response to Juba’s continued support to the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF) rebels fighting Khartoum on multiple fronts.

But Gen. Mai told Sudan Tribune that the wars in Sudan’s conflict regions were “purely internal matters, which should not be blamed on any foreign government”.

“What they are saying about the [alleged] support we provide to their rebels are simply makeup allegations. It is actually the government of Sudan, which provides all type of military supports to the militia groups they use as mercenaries to fight proxy war for them so as to destabilise this country,” he said.

The senior official also claimed South Sudan had documentary evidences, which showed Sudan was aiding militia groups opposed to the southern establishment.

“They are not just claims,” he stressed, adding that three militia groups, who recently surrendered their weapons to the SPLA, confessed that Khartoum supported their activities against the south.


Meanwhile, the south has accused the north of invading Kuek; an area located about 10km North West of Renk county in its Upper Nile state.

Philip Aguer, the SPLA spokesperson said Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) crossed into the area on Saturday, forcing the army on the ground to retreat.

Aguer said the actions of the SAF represented a clear violation of the cooperation agreement signed between the two countries.

“The Sudan Armed Forces violated the security arrangement and crossed into Kuek. They have remained there. They are still in the area until this moment. They are in control”, Aguer told reporters in the capital, Juba Sunday.

Aguer did not, however, elaborate on the number of casualties involved.

Upper Nile state’s information minister, Phillip Jaden, also confirmed the attack on Kuek in a separate interview, saying many people have fled the area.


Sudanese president orders government to stop oil flow from south over rebel row

Sudan Tribune

June 8, 2013 (KHARTOUM) – The Sudanese president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir on Saturday has ordered oil minister Awad al-Jaz to block the pipeline carrying South Sudan’s crude all the way to Red Sea coastal city of Port Sudan.

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President Omer Hassan al-Bashir addresses a crowd in North Khartoum, June 8, 2013 (Reuters)

Bashir who was speaking in Khartoum state said this decision was in response to Juba’s continued support to the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF) rebels fighting Khartoum on multiple fronts.

“O’ Awad [oil minister] tomorrow direct oil companies to close the pipeline and after that let them [South Sudan] take it via Kenya or Djibouti or wherever they want to take it”, the Sudanese president said at a rally at the inauguration of an electricity plant in Shil’ab area.

“The oil of South Sudan will not pass through Sudan ever again,” Bashir added.

The Sudanese president said the decision was taken after thorough study to examine its advantages and drawbacks.

He revealed that Khartoum previously gave Juba a two weeks ultimatum to suspend its support to SRF whom he described as “traitors” and “mercenaries” after which Sudan made this move.

Sudanese foreign minister Ali Karti was in Juba last month where he asked Juba to allow the army to pursue rebel groups inside the South Sudanese territory and to close business offices allegedly supporting rebels, president Kiir disclosed in two different speeches.

Last April, SRF launched attacks on several towns, briefly occupying the major town of Um Rawaba in North Kordofan state. They also took control of Abu-Kershola in South Kordofan for one month.

The rebels who control areas in Blue Nile state and South Kordofan also vowed to carry out further attacks in order to topple down the regime.

Bashir pledged never to allow South Sudan to use oil revenues to buy SRF rebels weapons and equipments used in fighting the Sudanese army.

“We gave the South a full cream state with services and money but they decided to bite the hand extended to them,” he said.

He also called on youth to join military training camps to prepare for Jihad (holy war).

He added that our message to Sudan’s enemies is that we will continue cleansing the country of traitors and mercenaries, saying “they know us, even their masters who support them knew us as well from previous experiences, we are very hard to be eaten or swallowed”.

After the Sudanese army reasserted control over Abu-Kershola in South Kordofan in late May, Bashir announced that they will no longer negotiate with SRF and warned Juba that they will shut down the northbound oil pipelines if they do not cease backing the insurgents.

If Sudan goes ahead with shutting the pipeline, it will be considered a heavy blow to agreements brokered by African Union mediation team.

In September of last year, both Sudan and South Sudan signed a series of cooperation agreements, which covered oil, citizenship rights, security issues, banking, border trade among others.

Last March, the two countries signed an implementation matrix for these cooperation agreements.

The most notable provision in the agreement is related to resumption of oil exports by landlocked South Sudan which were suspended more than a year ago because of a dispute over transit fees. Oil started flowing again in April.

Both countries fell under economic duress during the stoppage. Ninety eight percent of South Sudan’s revenues come from oil. Sudan’s economy was also hit hard.

South Sudan said it had not been informed about the decision.

“We haven’t heard anything about that yet. We had agreed that the oil would flow,” Barnaba Marial Benjamin told Reuters, adding that South Sudan rejected Bashir’s claims that it was supporting rebels operating on Sudanese soil.


In a separate event, Bashir’s second vice president Al-Haj Adam Youssef warned that Sudan will cancel all cooperation agreements signed with Juba unless South Sudan president Salva Kiir takes right decision to halt rebel support.

Youssef, who was addressing a graduation ceremony of popular defense female conscripts in the South Kordofan capital city of Kadugli, said that Sudan is capable of running its economy without the revenues of South Sudan oil.

The vice president renewed calls for the rebel armed groups in Darfur as well as the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/North (SPLM-N) to engage in negotiations with the government, saying that armed struggle wouldn’t solve Sudan’s problems.

He added that the government will not allow presence of Darfur rebels in South Kordofan state, noting that the government is resolved to cleanse all towns and villages in the state from rebellion.

Yousif also announced that the government would negotiate with the SPLM-N only on the basis of the protocols related to Blue Nile and South Kordofan in the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) and with the Darfur rebels on the basis of Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (DDPD).

Last April, the first round of talks since 2011 between the SPLM-N and the Sudanese government in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa have adjourned without success in bridging the wide gap between the two sides.


In a related issue, the pro-government al-Sudani newspaper said that Khartoum’s delegation planned trip to Addis Ababa to participate in oil committee meeting has been cancelled.

The report said that the newly-appointed Nigerian head of the committee called for this meeting to take place on Sunday.

South Sudan’s delegation headed by Pagan Amum are supposed to have already arrived to the meeting venue.  ST



Sudan ‘orders halt to oil transfers’ from South Sudan

Oil production facility in Paloch, S Sudan (5 May 2013)
Oil is vital to the economies of both countries

Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir has ordered the stoppage of oil transfers through its territory from South Sudan from Sunday, state media report.

State radio gave no further details in a text alert that it sent to subscribers.

Oil only started flowing again in April after the two sides struck a deal.

President Bashir said in May that Sudan would stop the flow of oil if South Sudan continued to support rebels operating on Sudanese soil.

The Sudanese army is fighting a rebel insurgency in at least three regions.

Despite the South’s independence in 2011, tensions over oil and land disputes have continued.

An umbrella rebel group called the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF) has launched attacks on several towns, briefly occupying the major city of Um Rawaba in central Sudan in April.

South Sudan took with it nearly three-quarters of Sudan’s oil production when it declared independence. The two sides fell out over how much the South should pay to export its oil through Sudanese pipelines.

At the height of the dispute last year, the South shut down its entire oil output.

Both countries suffered terribly during the stoppage, says the BBC’s Africa analyst, Mary Harper.

Ninety-eight percent of South Sudan’s revenues come from oil. Sudan’s economy also shrank.

Oil started flowing again in April after both sides struck a deal in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, in March, helping to ease tensions.

They also agreed to withdraw troops from their border area.

However, the latest violence has put further strain on relations.  bbc

African Union calls for Sudan, South Sudan summit on Abyei


Sudan's President Omar Hassan al-Bashir (L) and his South Sudan counterpart Salva Kiir address a joint news conference in Juba South Sudan April 12, 2013. REUTERS/Andreea Campeanu

Sudan’s President Omar Hassan al-Bashir (L) and his South Sudan counterpart Salva Kiir address a joint news conference in Juba South Sudan April 12, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Andreea Campeanu

KHARTOUM |          Thu May 9, 2013 9:55pm BST

KHARTOUM (Reuters) – The African Union (AU) called on Thursday for an urgent meeting of the leaders from Sudan and South Sudan to find a solution for the flashpoint Abyei region after the killing of a tribal leader and an Ethiopian peacekeeper.

On Saturday, Kuwal Deng Mayok, the chief of the Dinka tribe allied to South Sudan, was killed by a member of the Misseriya tribe in Abyei claimed by Khartoum and Juba. One Ethiopian peacekeeper and 15 Misseriya, who are allied to Sudan, also died, according to the U.N. and the Misseriya.

In March, the African Union brokered a deal between Sudan and South Sudan to resume cross-border oil flows and defuse tensions which have plagued them since the South seceded in 2011 after an independence vote.

But despite several recent meetings, Sudan’s President Omar Hassan al-Bashir and South Sudan’s Salva Kiir have been unable to agree on the ownership of Abyei, which the Dinka and the Arab Misseriya call their home.

Making a new push, the AU “urges the two Heads of State… to meet immediately”, according to a statement released in Addis Ababa. “This grave incident that occurred in Abyei serves to underscore that the status quo in Abyei is not tenable.”

Abyei straddles the border between the two Sudans, which fought one of Africa’s longest civil wars. The province is prized for its fertile land and small oil reserves.

Like South Sudan, Abyei was meant to have an independence vote, agreed under the 2005 peace deal which ended the civil war between the north and south. But Sudan and South Sudan have been unable to agree which tribal members should participate.

Ethiopian peacekeepers have been administering Abyei since Sudan seized it in May 2011 following an attack on a convoy of U.N. peacekeepers and Sudanese soldiers which the United Nations blamed on southern forces. Khartoum later withdrew its forces under a U.N. peace plan.  reuters

Bashir in South Sudan – borders to reopen and trade to resume


On first visit to South Sudan, President Omar Hassan al-Bashir of Sudan says diplomacy and trade will be normalised.

Sudan and South Sudan will normalise ties and start cross-border cooperation, Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir has said.

Bashir made the comments on Friday during his first visit to South Sudan since July 2011 when the south seceded and became an independent state.

“This visit shows the start of cooperation based on a normalisation of relations between the two countries,” Bashir said in a speech in the capital Juba.

South Sudan’s Salva Kiir said he had agreed with Bashir to continue a dialogue to solve all outstanding conflicts between the African neighbours.
Bashir was received at Juba airport by Kiir, his former civil war foe and an ex-rebel commander.
A military band played the national anthems of the two countries as the two heads of state greeted South Sudanese ministers assembled to welcome Bashir.
Bashir’s visit “will be good for the future of the two countries,” Barnaba Marial Benjamin, South Sudan’s information minister, said before Bashir’s plane touched down.

“There should be peace between the two countries,” he said.
The two nations agreed in March to resume cross-border oil flows and take steps to defuse tension that has plagued them since South Sudan seceded from Sudan in July 2011 following a treaty which ended decades of civil war.

They still have not agreed who owns Abyei province and other regions along their disputed 2,000km border.

Bashir had planned to visit South Sudan’s capital, Juba, a year ago but cancelled the trip when fighting erupted along their border and almost flared into full-scale war.

Bashir is expected to arrive with a large delegation and will discuss oil, border trade and security with Kiir, said Benjamin, the information minister.

“They need to talk about the Abyei administration and things related to the Abyei area,” he said.
Al Jazeera’s Harriet Martin, reporting from Sudan’s capital, Khartoum, said the visit was symbolic and that “there will be  a day’s serious work of discussions”.

Kordofan unrest

Meanhile, two people were killed and eight wounded  as suspected rebels shelled the capital of Sudan’s war-torn South Kordofan state on Friday.

Residents said the attack struck the east of Kadugli town at about 1:30 pm (1030 GMT).

They suspected the shells came from the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N), but the rebels’ spokesman said he did not yet have any information.

Oil production

South Sudan’s secession left unresolved a long list of disputes over territory and how much the landlocked south should pay to export its oil through Sudan.

The new African country shut down its entire oil output of 350,000 barrels a day in January last year at the height of the dispute over pipeline fees – a closure that had a devastating effect on both struggling economies.

The two sides subsequently agreed to restart oil shipments, grant each others’ citizens residency, increase border trade and encourage close cooperation between their central banks.

Last week, South Sudan re-launched oil production with the first oil cargo expected to reach Sudan’s Red Sea export terminal at Port Sudan by the end of May.

Both nations also withdrew their troops from border areas as agreed in a deal brokered by the African Union in September.

Bashir last visited Juba on July 9, 2011 to attend the ceremony marking South Sudan’s formal separation.

About two million people died in the war that was fuelled by divisions over religion, oil, ethnicity and ideology and ended in 2005 with a deal that paved the way for Juba’s secession.

al jazeera

South Sudan accuses Khartoum of troops build up on border


The city of Juba is seen at sunset, October 4, 2012. Picture taken October 4, 2012.  REUTERS/Adriane Ohanesian

By Hereward Holland

JUBA, Feb 12 (Reuters) – South Sudan on Tuesday accused Sudan of building up forces along their border, in a sign that efforts to set up a buffer zone between the neighbours and resume the oil exports vital to both economies have made no progress.

The two countries came close to war last April in the worst border clashes since South Sudan seceded in 2011 under a peace agreement that ended one of Africa’s longest civil wars.

The African Union brokered a deal in September to defuse hostilities. But the nations have failed set up a demilitarised border zone and resume oil exports from the landlocked South Sudan through Sudanese pipelines, as agreed in Addis Ababa.

Such a buffer zone is a pre-condition for Sudan to allow oil exports to restart. Juba shut down its output of 350,000 barrels a day a year ago in a row with Khartoum over pipeline fees.

“The last two months have seen an unusual build-up of forces along our common border with the Republic of Sudan,” South Sudan’s deputy defence minister Majak D’Agoot told reporters in the capital Juba on Tuesday, without giving any numbers.

“Our forces are in the state of maximum readiness to repel any attack by Khartoum. We will stay in our current positions, we will keep to the terms of the (September) agreement,” D’Agoot said.

Sudan’s army spokesman and foreign ministry spokesmen could not be immediately reached for comment.

D’Agoot said South Sudan had alerted other countries in the region, the African Union and the U.N. Security Council about what he called recent border violations by Sudan.

“We are concerned again about this hawkish mindset, about the ruling elites in Khartoum who would want to escalate the situation along the border and possibly provoke a war between the two countries,” he said.

On Sunday, Sudan’s state news agency SUNA said an infantry brigade had boosted security at the Heglig oilfield on the Sudan side of the disputed border. It was not clear if D’Agoot was referring to these troops.

South Kordofan state governor Ahmed Haroun told SUNA the situation was secure and stable at the oilfield, which South Sudan’s army briefly seized in April.

The countries are set to resume talks in Addis Ababa this month but diplomats expect no progress in setting up the border zone.

Two meetings between Sudan’s President Omar Hassan al-Bashir and South Sudan’s Salva Kiir last month failed to break a deadlock due to the deep mistrust between the nations, a legacy of the long civil war.

As well as getting oil flows restarted, both sides also need to decide on ownership of large strips of the almost 2,000 km (1,200 miles) long border.

South Sudan’s army said on Saturday it had killed seven fighters from a militia supported by Sudan which had crossed into Upper Nile state.  AlertNet

US says that Sudan is blocking peace deal with South Sudan


Sudan demands block S. Sudan peace dealBy By MICHAEL ONYIEGO | Associated Press – 15 hrs ago


  • United States Special Envoy to the Sudan region, Princeton Lyman, speaks to the media after a series of high-level meetings with the government in Juba, South Sudan Friday, Dec. 14, 2012. Lyman, who is due to step down in January after two years in the post, said Friday that new security demands raised by Sudan are blocking the implementation of a peace and security deal with South Sudan. (AP Photo/Mackenzie Knowles-Coursin)

    Associated Press/Mackenzie Knowles-Coursin – United States Special Envoy to the Sudan region, Princeton Lyman, speaks to the media after a series of high-level meetings with the government in Juba, South Sudan …more  Friday, Dec. 14, 2012. Lyman, who is due to step down in January after two years in the post, said Friday that new security demands raised by Sudan are blocking the implementation of a peace and security deal with South Sudan. (AP Photo/Mackenzie Knowles-Coursin)  

JUBA, South Sudan (AP) — New security demands raised by Sudan are blocking the implementation of a peace and security deal between Sudan and South Sudan, the U.S. special envoy said Friday during his last official visit to the region.

Princeton Lyman’s comments come three days before the stalled negotiations over security along the two countries’ north-south border restart at the African Union in Ethiopia. Negotiators from both sides are trying to agree on how to demilitarize the shared border.

Demilitarization was a key component of a Sept. 27 deal reached in Ethiopia following nearly eight months of conflict and tension surrounding the countries’ shared oil industries. In January, South Sudan accused Khartoum of stealing its oil and stopped pumping it through Sudanese pipelines. In April, the two countries openly clashed over the disputed Heglig oil region.

The September agreement was supposed to see the ill-defined border delineated, and the resumption of oil production and exports. But nearly three months on, little progress has been made.

“We had high hopes for those agreements,” said Lyman.

The talks between Sudan and South Sudan have been monitored by the United Nations Security Council since before the September agreement was reached, and Lyman said that U.N. sanctions were “still on the table” if an agreement isn’t found.

Both sides agreed to withdraw troops 6 miles (10 kilometers) from either side of the border while allowing an Ethiopian force to monitor the zone. At the press conference Friday, Lyman pointed a finger at Khartoum — the capital of Sudan — for that lack of progress.

“I am troubled by the fact that in starting the implementation of the security mechanisms that Khartoum has raised a number of new requests and demands and linked the resumption of oil to satisfaction of those demands,” he said.

The biggest issue for Khartoum has been South Sudan’s support for the SPLM-North, a rebel group that is fighting government forces in Sudan’s South Kordofan and Blue Nile states. Representatives from Sudan have asked Juba to provide assurances that they will not further support the rebels before Sudanese troops withdraw from the border.

But Lyman said the new demands were not helpful. “We think the security issues are best addressed in the agreements already reached.”

The SPLM-North was once part of the South Sudanese army, during its decades-long civil war with Khartoum, which ended in 2005. When South Sudan peacefully broke away from Khartoum last year following a referendum, the SPLM-North forces were left on Sudan’s side of the border. South Sudan has repeatedly denied support for the northern rebels, and South Sudan President Salva Kiir has called Khartoum’s demand that South Sudan disarm the rebels “an impossible mission.”

The U.S. envoy will travel to the Ethiopian capital for the Monday talks, which are hosted by the African Union and led by former South African President Thabo Mbeki.

Lyman urged South Sudan to manage its resources with great care, but also announced that the U.S. government aid arm, USAID, will sign an agreement next week to release the first of $230 million in assistance for agriculture, infrastructure, education and technical assistance.

Lyman, who has served as envoy to Sudan region for two years, is set to step down after the New Year. Asked if he thought talks between the neighbors would eventually succeed, he said: “I can’t promise anything, but I’m hopeful.”  reuters