ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia — No deal on the current oil crisis between Sudan and South Sudan emerged from the highly anticipated meeting today between Presidents Salva Kiir and Omar al-Bashir. Following the meeting, it was announced that the two parties would continue negotiations. Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki, Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, and former presidents Thabo Mbeki of South Africa and Pierre Buyoya of Burundi were also in the room.
In the hubbub of diplomats, ministers, heads of state, and press descending upon the Sheraton Addis today for the IGAD summit, all eyes were on the presidential meeting, which took place in the midst of North-South talks that have largely stalled, and was seen as a last-ditch attempt pull the two sides from the brink.
In late November, Khartoum began blocking and confiscating southern oil, arguing that they were taking in-kind fees owed to them by South Sudan. South Sudan has said that it has paid all transportation and processing fees, and that they only owe Khartoum a transit fee. How much in transit fees the South should pay to the North was under negotiation at the time of Khartoum’s confiscation.
In response to Khartoum’s actions, South Sudan began the shutdown of its oil operations during this latest round of talks, arguing that action had to be taken to guarantee the protection of its oil assets.
As the parties remain in talks in Addis, the shutdown of oil operations in South Sudan is well underway. According to a press release issued by the South on Wednesday, production in the oil blocks that are connected to the western pipeline in Sudan has ceased completely. Because the western pipeline will continue to transfer oil that falls within northern territory, the pipeline has not been fully shutdown. Production in the blocks that feed oil through the eastern pipeline in Sudan has been halved; once production ceases, this pipeline will completely shutdown.
Photo: Presidents Bashir and Kiir at the South Sudan independence celebration in Juba, July 9, 2011 (Enough / Laura Heaton)