Following discussions with representatives of governments of Sudan and South Sudan, the AU High-Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP) has set out a timetable for the next round of talks to take place in Addis Ababa from 17th to 23rd of January.
The new round of talks is hoped to bring a settlement to the dispute over the fees to be paid by South Sudan for the use of pipelines owned by Sudan to take South Sudan’s oil to the export terminals in Sudan’s sea outlet of Port Sudan. The previous talks collapsed in late November after the AUHIP’s proposed compromise for Juba to pay Khartoum an annual percentage of oil exports failed when Sudan rejected the South’s offer.
An AUHIP statement said there will be concurrent meetings in January over oil and on the issue of arrears as well as a meeting on banking and trade payments. Sudan says South Sudan has paid no fees for the transport of oil since it became independent, while South Sudan argues the transportation fees demanded, US$32.2 per barrel, are too steep.
On the issue of commercial oil negotiations, AUHIP said it might ask representatives of oil companies to attend the meetings to provide information and input. South Sudan’s chief negotiator, Pagan Amum, said this would help overcome the “principle of discrimination” and give all parties a platform on which to base discussions on tariffs and costs being put forward.
Given what some observers have called “the policy of brinkmanship” adopted by both sides over oil, the next round of talks will be critical.
Meanwhile, on Friday last week, Prime Minister Meles reiterated his commitment to work for a settlement to the pending issues from the CPA after a meeting with Sudanese Defence Minister, Abdel-Rahim Hussein, who brought a message from President Omar al-Bashir. The Prime Minister emphasized that Ethiopia would continue its support for the efforts to find peaceful solutions for any disputes between the governments of Sudan and South Sudan. He also underlined Ethiopia’s desire to develop bilateral ties with Sudan.
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