February 14, 2012 (KHARTOUM) – The current round of talks between north and South Sudan on oil will likely be adjourned and resumed in two weeks time, an official in Khartoum said today.
- Pagan Amum, South Sudan’s chief negotiator (AFP)
The two sides have been unable to reach a middle ground during almost five days of negotiations in the Ethiopian capital that are moderated by the African Union High-Level implementation Panel (AUHIP).
In this round, Khartoum’s delegation tabled a paper detailing its position on oil transit fees and how it should be calculated per barrel of crude exported by South Sudan through the pipelines.
But South Sudan’s negotiating team led by Sudan People Liberation Movement (SPLM) Secretary General Pagan Amum rejected Khartoum’s demand of $36 per barrel saying that this represents no change from previous figures.
In the past, Juba said that the fair fee should be around $1 per barrel of oil.
The Sudanese foreign ministry spokesperson Al-Obeid Marwih said that the two sides will return to the negotiating table by the end of this month. He revealed that a preliminary accord could be signed on other post secession issues such as borders and trade.
Specialised committees from the two countries will convene later this month to continue discussions on trade as well citizenship issues.
In a related issue, SPLM Secretary General said that Khartoum seized 2.4 million barrels of its oil in a continuation of measures implemented by the Sudanese government since late last year, which brings total volume of crude seized to 6 million barrels.
This included 1.2 million barrels taken in December, four shipments totalling roughly 2.5 million barrels in January and another 2.4 million barrels reported this month, according to figures provided to Reuters by South Sudan’s negotiating team in Addis Ababa.
"Yesterday we have been informed that the government of Sudan has again stolen 2.4 million barrels of our best quality crude oil," Amum said, according to Reuters.
South Sudan took with it three quarters of Sudan’s daily oil production of 500,000 barrels when it seceded in July under a 2005 peace deal that ended more than two decades of civil war between the two sides.
Previous rounds of protracted negotiations failed to yield an agreement on a fair charge to transport South Sudan’s oil through Sudan’s infrastructure, triggering a crisis that saw Khartoum confiscating oil and Juba suspending production all together.
Juba has been insisting that it must be reimbursed for the oil Khartoum says it confiscated to make up for unpaid fees.
Amum said Sudan had released two vessels that had been waiting to load South Sudanese crude at Port Sudan but another six had arrived. Eight in total are now prevented from entering the port, he said.
"Six vessels were ready to come and load oil that they already bought, but they are not allowed to come to Port Sudan," the senior SPLM official said.
"These companies are not coming because they have been informed that the oil they bought from South Sudan has been stolen by the government of Sudan," he added.
Last week, Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir described Juba’s decision to halt oil production is "suicide".
He accused Juba of seeking to strangle his country economically by this move but he dismissed it saying that his country’s gold exports are booming.