“A percentage of something is better than a percentage of nothing,” Clinton said, reflecting the U.S. view that South Sudan is only hurting itself by turning off an oil flow on which both countries rely.
On Saturday, a key mediator said the countries had reached an oil deal, according to Reuters.
Backed by millions of dollars in U.S. and European aid, South Sudan is the world’s newest country and by some measures its least developed. It is locked in a deadly embrace with Sudan, its detested former overlord, that U.S. officials fear is becoming a war of attrition that the northern country is far better placed to win.
Disputes over oil and territory threaten to destroy a landmark 2005 peace deal that ended what was then Africa’s longest-running civil war. Sudan’s predominantly Christian and animist south seceded from the largely Arab north in July last year, but the arrangement left borders porous and details about oil production messy.
The two Sudans came to the brink of war in April. The fighting has contributed to the displacement of more than 200,000 people — one of the worst refugee crises in the world.
Just a day after Clinton’s visit, Thabo Mbeki, the former South African president and African Union mediator in Sudan, told reporters in Ethiopia that an oil deal had finally been struck.
“It’s an (oil) agreement about all of the matters. The issues that were outstanding were charges for transportation, for processing, transit,” Mbeki said, according to Reuters. He gave no details but said Sudan and South Sudan would soon determine when to resume exports of southern oil through the north.
Clinton later issued a statement welcoming the agreement, saying it reflected “leadership and a new spirit of compromise on both sides.”
She praised the “courage” shown by South Sudan’s leaders, adding, “As I said in Juba yesterday, the interests of their people were at stake.” The Khartoum government, too, deserves credit, Clinton said. “If Sudan would now also take the steps to peace in Southern Kordofan, Blue Nile and Darfur, and if it will respect the rights of all citizens, it can likewise give its people a brighter future.”
The accord was a surprise; Sudan had previously insisted on an agreement covering border security before discussions on oil production and revenue sharing.
South Sudan shut off the oil pipelines in January in a dispute over payment. Most of the former united Sudan’s oil was produced in the landlocked south but shipped out from the north.