August 19, 2013 (JUBA) - The South Sudanese government is experiencing “improved bilateral relations” with neigbouring Sudan, the two-year-old nation’s foreign affairs minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin said on Monday.
Since South Sudan’s independence in July 2011 Juba has been unable to resolve a host of contentious post-secession issues, including the border, security, contested areas, citizenship and oil.
“Relations with Sudan have remarkably increased. There are direct contacts between the two presidents. There are also contacts between other institutions. As I speak now they can call each other and communicate freely. This is a sign of improved relations”, Marial told journalists at the first official briefing about north-south relations since his appointment.
Marial said his country was currently consolidating efforts to build up and strengthen the emerging spirit of friendship to establish healthy and sustainable relations between the two nations.
Khartoum has threatened to stop South Sudan’s oil passing through its territory. The latest extension of the deadline was announced by Sudan’s oil minister, Awad Al-Jaz on 12 August, putting the shutdown off until 6 September.
Sudan accuses its southern neighbour of backing rebels fighting the government in Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile. Juba denies the allegation and regularly blames Khartoum for stoking a rebellion in South Sudan’s eastern Jonglei state.
“We are not actually surprised that the oil is flowing. This is an indication of remarkable improvement about the relations between the countries”, Marial said.
The minster pointed out that his country his currently pursuing three levels at which it would build strong relations and build trust between the countries.
"We are building these relations with Sudan at the moment at three levels. We are opened to dialogue with them at the African union, at the ministerial and opening contacts between the two heads of state", minister Marial explained at news briefing with journalists Monday.