Sudan and newly independent South Sudan have agreed to include international oil companies in talks to resolve a dispute over how much the new African nation should pay to use Khartoum's oil export facilities, officials said.
South Sudan took away two thirds of Sudan's 500,000 barrels per day of oil production when it became independent in July under a 2005 peace deal with Khartoum. Oil is the main source of revenue for both governments. The landlocked South Sudan will have to pay Khartoum to use its oil pipeline and Red Sea port to sell the oil but the two sides have been unable to reach an deal at talks in Ethiopia.
At stake are oil sales, worth around $3 billion, that South Sudan has contracted since its independence. The companies operating in both countries are mainly Asian, such as China's state firm CNPC.
"We (South Sudan and Sudan) agreed today to allowing oil companies to participate in forthcoming negotiations because some of these companies have a stake in the issue," South Sudan's top negotiator Pagan Amum told Reuters after the latest round of bilateral talks in Ethiopia. An official at the African Union panel that is trying to resolve the standoff confirmed Amum's comments. Talks will resume in January.
South Sudan accused Khartoum last month of temporarily blocking loading of crude. Sudan denies the charges. Tensions have also escalated between north and south over violence in the volatile common border region. Khartoum and Juba accuse each other of supporting rebels in their territories.