Thursday, April 24, 2014

Sudan, South Sudan agree to open border crossings

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Ten crossings are to be opened in demonstration of improved relations between both sides.

After months of tense relations that nearly resulted in an all out war, Sudan and South Sudan agreed on Tuesday to open 10 crossings along their joint border, Reuters reported.

The re-opening which will boost travel and trade came weeks after South Sudan announced that it was resuming oil production following months of shutdown. The oil will be transported through the North to the coast for international sale.

Sudan expects the first oil cargo from South Sudan to arrive next week, state media said on Monday.

Both sides have worked more in the past weeks towards normalizing relations, with a visit by Sudanese leader, Omar al Bashir, to the south- the first since the south broke away in 2011.

Sudan had closed much of the 2,000-kilometre boundary after South Sudan’s secession in 2011 – causing hardship for traders and communities on both sides of the disputed line.

Nearly a year after, border skirmishes brought both countries close to full-blown war over unresolved disputes over oil, territory and other issues.

The two countries said they would open 10 roads, rail and Nile river crossing, eight of them immediately, in fresh AU talks in Ethiopia on Tuesday, Reuters said.

One crossing will link South Sudan’s Unity State with Heglig, home to an oilfield vital to Sudan’s economy which South Sudan’s army briefly occupied during last year’s border skirmishes.

South Sudan owns a greater percentage of the oil wealth available to the former Sudan but transportation of the crude for sales overseas were done through the North, now Sudan.

After both sides separated in 2011, disputes over revenues and border conflicts, led to a shutdown of production as South Sudan, a landlocked nation, could not convey the products, except through a third party, to the nearby coast.

Before shutdown, South Sudan produced 350,000 barrels a day. Production was halted over a disagreement about how much South Sudan should pay to export its oil through Sudanese pipelines. South Sudan said the charges amounted to theft.

The new country now says that its decision to resume production should be taken as a sign of peace.

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