Sudans, Somalia to top AU issues

2012-01-29 19:14

Addis Ababa - An oil dispute between Sudan and South Sudan has become "a serious threat to peace and security in the region," UN chief Ban Ki-moon said on Sunday as African heads of state converged on Ethiopia's capital for an African Union summit.

Ban called on African leaders to "play a more important role solving regional issues".

The Sudan crisis and war and hunger in Somalia are expected to dominate this year's summit, though the gathering's official theme is trade.

South Sudan recently shut down oil production after it accused Sudan of stealing hundreds of millions of dollars worth of oil. Related negotiations have reached an impasse.

In a separate incident, China said on Sunday that militants loyal to South Sudan captured 29 Chinese workers in a volatile border region of Sudan.

South Sudan fought a decades-long civil war with northern neighbour Sudan, a war that culminated in a 2005 peace deal that saw the partitioning of Sudan and the birth of South Sudan last July. The new border between the two countries remains tense, with sporadic cross-border attacks taking place.

Transit fees

Oil negotiations between the two neighbours have been in a deadlock for two years. They have never agreed on the transit fees South Sudan should pay to Sudan for using its infrastructure of port and pipelines.

Ban said he discussed the issue with South Sudanese President Salva Kiir, Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki. He urged Kiir to meet with Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir to resolve their problems.

"I am urging two leaders to demonstrate political will," he said.

Ban also expressed concerns about a humanitarian crisis along Sudan's volatile border with the south, and said the Khartoum government was not co-operating with UN missions.

"I am deeply concerned about South Kordofan and Blue Nile State," he said. "... Very worrisome because of the accessibility. There is no access for humanitarian workers."

Humanitarian concerns

The UN has also raised humanitarian concerns in South Sudan, where more than 120 000 people need aid because of a wave of ethnic clashes in a remote and volatile region.

The two nations have been meeting in Ethiopia for oil talks. Haile Menkerios, a special UN representative to Sudan, said on Sunday there has been no recent progress.

Also on Sunday, South Sudan's minister of petroleum and mining said the nation will not restart oil production unless Sudan accepts a list of demands.

Stephen Dhieu Dau said South Sudan was "committed to negotiations" but that Khartoum would have to accept their offer of paying $1 per barrel for using Sudan's pipelines for export and $2.4bn financial assistance package before South Sudan turns on production again.

He also said Sudan must withdraw troops from the disputed border region of Abyei and stop funding rebel groups in South Sudan.

He said South Sudan wants an international treaty guaranteed by "international superpowers".

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Read more on:    un  |  salva kiir  |  mwai kibaki  |  ban ki-moon  |  sudan  |  somalia  |  south sudan  |  aid  |  east africa
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