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Khartoum opens embassy in Juba as South Sudan approaches separation

March 19, 2011 (JUBA) – The north Sudan government has opened an embassy in Juba, the capital of South Sudan when it becomes independent on July 9 following an overwhelming vote for secession in a referendum in January.

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A Southern Sudan 2011 Taskforce meeting chaired by South Sudan vice president Riek Machar in Juba. March 15, 2011 (ST)

The self-determination exercise was provided for in the 2005 peace deal that ended 21 years of civil war between north and south.

Khartoum’s decision to open its embassy in Juba was announced on Friday by the minister of information, Barnaba Marial Benjamin, during the Southern Sudan 2011 Taskforce meeting chaired by the Vice President, Riek Machar Teny.

Marial, who presented highlighted priorities on international relations on behalf of the minister of regional cooperation, Deng Alor Kuol, said Khartoum has already established a consulate which it will upgrade to a full embassy after July and has posted a diplomatic representative in Juba.

South Sudan has been developing a foreign policy in anticipation of full independence in July that will see the regional autonomous government upgraded to a national sovereign independent state which will determine its own foreign policy. Currently, Sudan’s foreign policy is a decided by the national government in Khartoum of which the South’s SPLM has been a partner since 2005.

The emerging independent South Sudan is aiming to develop its immediate priorities as well as medium and long term strategies before it becomes officially independent in July.

Machar who chairs the taskforce, charged with the responsibility to prepare the region for post-independence period, urged the various working groups to accelerate efforts to refine their respective documents before July. The taskforce includes around 20 ministers and representatives of other political parties, civil society organizations and foreign experts.

One of the priorities by July is to prepare the region to decide whether to adopt the international treaties that Sudan has already signed and whether to introduce others. The region is also preparing itself for membership of international organizations.

Sudan is a member of the Arab League but South Sudan, with its largely African and Christian identity, is not expected to look to for membership. However, the South is expected to become a member of the United Nations and Africa Union.

The taskforce has also highlighted strategies on how to establish and strengthen diplomatic relations with regional neighbors and entities.

On the economy and natural resources, the taskforce highlighted the importance of reiterating and implementing a policy that would guarantee food security by developing an agriculture based economy.

As South Sudan’s economy is almost entirely dependent on non-renewable oil revenues which currently constitute 98% of the region’s wealth, using the oil revenues to diversify the nation’s economy in various sectors by investing in developing the country’s infrastructures, agriculture and human resources were reiterated as important.

The meeting discussed its future oil sector strategy including resource assessment and establishment of resource accounts as a base for government planning. These included ensuring efficient management of the petroleum sector, maximizing its value, addressing environmental protection while upholding social corporate responsibility and ensuring efficient contracts and management of contractors, among many others.

Ensuring transparency in the oil sector was said to be important. South Sudan claims that it has not received the 50 percent of revenue it is due as agreed in the 2005 peace deal. Khartoum denies this is the case.

The taskforce said that the alleged underpayment of oil revenue was due to a lack of transparency in the oil industry.

Establishing a central bank and defining a currency for an independent South Sudan while putting in place contingency planning for currency options, payments and accounting systems and strengthening bank operations and in supervision for oversight of local banks were also reiterated.

The two disengaging regions of north and south Sudan have expressed the need to maintain their current economic ties, especially in the oil sector, which officials say will be a basis for maintaining security and diplomatic cooperation. Most of Sudan’s known oil reserves will depart with the south by July while the north will continue to host the pipelines, refineries and export terminals.

(ST)