April 8, 2013 (JUBA) – Relations between Sudan and South Sudan, tense in recent months, appears to be easing with the recent agreements both countries signed, the United Nations said.
Hilde Johnson, the head of the UN mission in the country, told journalists on Monday that the sour relations, coupled with internal security challenges had diverted resources the country needed to build capacities, strengthen its institutions, and consolidate peace and democracy.
“Today, the tension between Sudan and South Sudan appears to be easing following the March agreement on the implementation of the 27 September Cooperation Agreements signed by both countries,” Johnson told the press in the capital, Juba.
The two countries, early last month, agreed on immediate and unconditional withdrawal of forces to their respective side of the border within two weeks, to allow for the establishment of a Safe Demilitarised Border Zone (SDBZ).
As part of the security agreement, both countries also committed themselves to the deployment of the Joint Border Verification and Monitoring Mechanism (JBVMM) and the activation of all security related mechanisms, starting 10 March.
Under the agreement, North and South Sudan are required to deploy their troops 10 kilometres from their current positions to their side of the border, with the United Nations Interim Security Forces for Abyei (UNISFA) tasked with monitoring the area.
South Sudan shut down its oil production in January last year, following a dispute over transit fees with neighbouring Sudan. Until now, the young nation’s only route to export its crude oil is currently via Sudan’s pipelines and port.
However, the Sudanese government announced on Friday that the first barrels of South Sudan oil would begin to flow through the pipelines to Port Sudan on Saturday.
The restart of oil production this weekend, Johnson said, should open a new chapter for South Sudan, in terms of not only an “improved economic situation, but also with conditions more conduce to progress on other political and security challenges.”
South Sudan took with it nearly three quarters of the oil wealth when it seceded from the north in July 2011, but remains dependent on Sudanese infrastructure to pump its oil to export markets.
Before the shutdown, revenues from oil accounted for nearly 98% of South Sudan’s annual budget.
The resumption of oil production marks the first stage in the implementation of a wider cooperation agreement signed by both countries in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, under the African Union (AU) mediation.