x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Sudan parliament approves security, oil deals with South Sudan

Sudan's parliament yesterday approved deals with South Sudan on oil and security that the two countries' presidents have hailed as the way to end their conflict.

KHARTOUM // Sudan's parliament yesterday approved deals with South Sudan on oil and security that the two countries' presidents have hailed as the way to end their conflict.

Roughly half of the chamber's 350 MPs were present for the ballot, and only two of them voted against the agreements.

The late-September deals, signed by Sudan's president, Omar Al Bashir, and his South Sudanese counterpart, Salva Kiir, came after the countries fought along their undemarcated frontier in March and April, sparking fears of wider war.

A UN Security Council resolution ordered a ceasefire and the settlement of crucial unresolved issues, under African Union mediation.

"We received a positive reaction from the international community expecting our signature on the agreement, and they believe we are a responsible state that is looking out for the benefits of its people," Ali Karti, the foreign minister, told legislators.

He criticised Sudanese press criticism of the deals.

The South's government halted oil production in January after accusing Khartoum of theft in a long-running dispute over how much the impoverished government in Juba should pay for sending its oil through northern infrastructure for export.

The deals signed last month included agreements to ensure the resumption of oil exports, as well as progress on a financial package of about $3 billion that South Sudan offered Khartoum.

The package is compensation for the economically damaging loss of most of Sudan's oilfields when South Sudan separated in July last year.

They also reached a key agreement on a demilitarised border buffer zone, where troops must withdraw 10 kilometres from the de facto line of control along the undemarcated frontier.

The zone aims to cut support for rebels which Sudan says are backed by South Sudan in the northern states of South Kordofan and Blue Nile.

A 22-year north-south civil war led to a 2005 peace deal and South Sudan's independence, but tensions over oil and other issues lingered.

At the signing in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Mr Kiir said the overall agreement with Sudan "brings to an end the long conflict between our two countries".

Mr Al Bashir said he would "seize the historic opportunity and journey towards building peace".

However, the leaders failed to strike a deal on the flashpoint region of Abyei as well as other contested border areas. Outstanding issues are to be addressed in future rounds of talks, officials have said.