Over the weekend, Sudan not only agreed to a lower transport fee for South Sudan, it also allowed aid to finally reach the rebel-held border states of South Kordofan and Blue Nile.
Peace between Sudanese forces and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement – North remains hazy, but Khartoum agreed Saturday (Aug. 4) to allow aid agencies to deliver humanitarian relief to civilians that have been suffering from fighting in the two states. As a first step, it agreed to a “limited ceasefire” in some areas, head of the Sudanese delegation Kamal Obeid said, according to Reuters.
The agreement will allow the tripartite team — comprising the United Nations, African Union and Arab League — to assess the needs of internally displaced people in the two states, and have their chosen partner agencies deliver humanitarian aid. But Sudan refused to hand over complete control and wants aid distribution to remain under strict government supervision.
Despite the condition, the SPLM-N signed a similar agreement with the tripartite team, committing to ensure the safety of aid agencies. The move, according to SPLM-N Secretary-General Yasir Arman, was in consideration of the now 1-year-old humanitarian crisis in the areas that resulted from Khartoum’s decision to deny aid access to people in need, Sudan Tribune reports.
Also on Saturday, Sudan and South Sudan struck a deal to resume oil operations under negotiations led by the African Union High Implementation Panel for Sudan, which is headed by former South African President Thabo Mbeki.
Under the deal, South Sudan will pay $9.48 per barrel for using Sudan’s pipelines — significantly lower than the $36 per barrel Khartoum had demanded from Juba. But while it falls below expectations, “It constitutes a middle ground,” Sudan delegation spokesman Mutrif Sidiq told The Associated Press.
South Sudan will also provide a one-time payment of about $3 billion as compensation for Khartoum’s lost oil revenue following Juba’s independence last year.
South Sudan, the world’s newest nation, has some of the worst human development indicators in the world, Lise Grande, U.N. humanitarian coordinator for South Sudan, told Al-Jazeera in July. Ninety-eight percent of its national budget comes from oil, according to AP. There were fears South Sudan’s economy would collapse following the oil shutdown in January, which forced the government to take austerity measures that exacerbated food insecurity and affected its education sector, among others.
The oil operation shutdown also hurt Sudan’s economy.
The agreement is set for three and a half years, but when this will actually take place remains to be seen. Sidiq said oil won’t start flowing through Sudan’s pipelines until security issues have been addressed — a similarly large issue that needs to be resolved soon. Also, clearing the pipelines may take six months or longer, according to oil industry sources, Reuters reports.
Both parties are expected to resume talks on border and security after Eid al-Fitr, or the end of Ramandan, just before the end of August.
U.S. President Barack Obama, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice President of the European Commission Catherine Ashton, and other leaders welcomed the deal. The agreement “opens the door to a future of greater prosperity for the people of both countries,” Obama said in a statement Saturday. Ashton, meanwhile, said the deal will contribute to the “welfare of the people” and both countries’ “economic viability.”
Both hope the two countries would extend the agreement to other “outstanding issues,” including border and security arrangements, as well as the future of disputed border area Abyei.
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