Sudan and South Sudan remain deadlocked in their ongoing dispute over untangling their oil industries after the South became a fully independent nation last summer. Talks in Addis Ababa sponsored by the African Union have made little progress in reaching agreement on how the two countries will manage revenues from oil reserves now centered largely in the South. Other issues surrounding South Sudan independence, such as the political future of the border Abyei region, also remain unsettled. Meanwhile, leaders of both nations have turned up the rhetoric to press their respective side of the dispute, threatening to unravel the gains they have made.
The United States urges both South Sudan and Sudan to redouble their efforts and return to the negotiating table to reach a resumption of full, normal oil operations and to reach a comprehensive agreement on all oil and financial issues. We are encouraged by the Sudanese government’s release of four tankers carrying South Sudan crude that it detained in Port Sudan over transit fees it said were owed. In retaliation for the seizure, and for Sudan’s confiscation of Southern oil transiting northern pipelines, South Sudan has shut down all its oil production.
The release of the ships is a positive first step toward resolution of the oil negotiations, but Sudan must also halt all other unilateral actions, such as reported blocking of ships scheduled to load Southern oil. It is hoped that South Sudan will meet such progress with a resumption of the oil operations that play such a critical role in the economies of each nation.
The oil dispute threatens peace and stability in the entire region, already suffering from insurgencies and inter-ethnic violence. Sudan and South Sudan have come too far to allow the progress made thus far to falter. The United States supports two viable states at peace internally and with one another. We call on all parties to show restraint and resolve the oil dispute now so they can move on to further agreements on their future as neighbors, not combatants.