June 19, 2013, (KHARTOUM) - The Sudanese president Omer Hassan al-Bashir met on Wednesday with Chinese special envoy to Africa Zhong Jianhua to discuss the former’s decision this month to shut down pipelines that carries oil from landlocked South Sudan for exporting into the international market.
- President Omer Al-Bashir (Reuters)
Jianhua, who arrived in Khartoum last week, has previously met with foreign minister Ali Karti and oil minister Awad al-Jaz.
According to state media, Bashir explained to the Chinese envoy in details the reasons that prompted the Khartoum to order the closure but he nonetheless renewed Sudan’s commitment to the cooperation agreements signed with Juba last year.
The Sudanese leader also expressed support to African Union (AU) efforts to defuse the fresh crisis between the two countries.
Jianhua on his end said that Beijing backs the AU and international mediators plan to end the row and normalize ties between Khartoum and Juba.
The Chinese official is expected to stop in both Juba and Addis Ababa for discussions on the same issue.
He later met with Bashir’s assistant Nafie Ali Nafie and said that China will work to bridge gap between Khartoum and Juba.
Sudan, aggravated by what it claims is Juba’s continued support to anti-Khartoum rebels, left the door open for reversing the decision if South Sudan gives up its backing to the insurgents operating in border states.
The suspension of oil flow is scheduled to take place within 60 days of Bashir’s directive but last week Khartoum said it accepted proposals of the head of the African Union High-level Implementation Panel (AUHIP) Thabo Mbeki.
It is unclear if that means a suspension of measures taken to start shutting down the pipelines. Sudan has formally notified Juba and the oil companies of the order and asked the latter to provide a plan and schedule to implement it.
That row threatens to hit supplies to Asian buyers such as China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC), India’s ONCG Videsh and Malaysia’s Petronas, which run the oilfields in both countries.
Reuters said that diplomats doubt Sudan will actually close the two cross-border export pipelines because its economy has been suffering without South Sudan’s pipeline fees.
Oil used to be the main source for Sudan’s budget until southern secession in July 2011, when Khartoum lost 75 percent of its oil production and its status as oil exporter overnight.