Sudan ‘will not protect South’s oilfields’

Sudan 110 January 2014 – Sudan will not participate in a joint operation to protect oilfields in neighbouring South Sudan as fighting continues in the restive nation, a report claims.

The often enemy countries were in the past week reported to be looking at the possibility of jointly deploying forces in the South’s oil-producing regions to rebuff any advances from rebel groups nominally loyal to former vice president Riek Machar.

Sudanese army spokesperson Colonel Khaled Sawarmi told Reuters, however, that past differences between the neighbours was scuppering any such co-operation.

“There is no common ground between the two armies,” he told the news wire.

Deadly fighting has wracked South Sudan since mid-December when President Salva Kiir accused Machar of plotting a coup against him – something the latter has denied.

Fighting spread from the capital Juba to outlying states, with rebels said to still be in control of some oil patches in Unity state, a major oil-producing region.

Residents of the state’s capital Bentiu were said to be on the move this week as government troops advanced on the town. The BBC reported on Thursday that rebels in Bentiu are building up their defences ahead of an anticipated assault.

Peace talks got under way in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa recently, but have so far largely proved fruitless, as the parties differ on the issue of political prisoners held by the Juba administration.

South Sudan split from Sudan in July 2011, taking with it three-quarters of the original country’s oil reserves. Khartoum relies heavily on revenues from oil production in South Sudan, which must use its neighbour’s midstream and port infrastructure for exports.

Kadugli IDP's outside UNMIS Sector HQ.‘Thousands flee S Sudan oil city’
*Bentiu residents fear government troops about to launch offensive in oil-rich Unity state

Meanwhile, thousands of people are fleeing the oil-rich South Sudanese city of Bentiu as fears grow that government troops are launching an offensive to retake it from rebels, according to a report.

Some people are taking refuge in a United Nations base in the city, the capital of the major oil-producing Unity state, the BBC reported on its website.

Government troops are said to be stationed 25 kilometres outside Bentiu, the report claims.

The city is said to be still under the control of rebels loyal to former vice president Riek Machar, who President Salva Kiir in December accused of plotting a coup.

The discovery of this alleged plot – which Machar has denied – sparked deadly clashes in the country’s capital, Juba. Although these were swiftly quelled, the feuding spread to other states, particularly Upper Nile, Jonglei and Unity.

Talks between the two sides began in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa this week but have stalled over the issue of political prisoners being held by the Juba administration.

Kiir reiterated this week that he would not release the prisoners – said to number between 10 and 12 – but the BBC reported he offered to release them if the peace talks were moved from Addis Ababa to Juba. This offer was reportedly knocked back by Machar’s side.

Kiir has recently held talks with President Omar Bashir of neighbour Sudan. The two have discussed the possibility of forming a joint force to protect South Sudan’s oilfields.

South Sudan split from Sudan in July 2011, taking with it three-quarters of the former Sudan’s oil reserves.
*Eoin O’Cinneide, Upstreamonline

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