South Sudan hopes to end oil row within "a month or two"

Reuters News
Posted: Mar 24, 2012 1:48 PM
South Sudan hopes to end oil row within "a month or two"

JUBA (Reuters) - South Sudan hopes to resolve a row over oil and other outstanding issues with Sudan within a month or two, South Sudan's top negotiator said on Saturday, pointing to an easing of tensions between the two old civil war foes.

The new nation also said it would not arrest Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir, wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on charges of genocide and other crimes, when he visits the southern capital Juba next month.

South Sudan seceded from Sudan in July under a 2005 peace deal that ended decades of civil war, but the two have continued to argue over issues including how much the landlocked South should pay to use Sudan's oil facilities for export.

The dispute pushed Juba to shut down its 350,000 barrel per day oil production in January.

But the two sides have made some headway in recent weeks, agreeing to provisional deals that allow for protection of citizens residing in one another's countries and lay out plans to demarcate much of the poorly-drawn border.

Both presidents are set to meet in Juba on April 3 to sign the documents and discuss other unresolved issues including the status of the contested Abyei region and the oil dispute.

"They can proceed in this new positive environment to discuss all the issues and hopefully reach agreement within a very clear time frame, hopefully a month or two," Pagan Amum, South Sudan's chief negotiator, told reporters in Juba.

Amum said Bashir would not be arrested during his visit. South Sudan is not a signatory to the ICC's Rome Statute, which compels members to arrest suspects.

"President Salva Kiir has provided assurance as he is the head of state inviting president Bashir and that in itself is an assurance. You don't invite somebody as a trick," Amum said.

Sudan does not acknowledge the ICC and says the accusations are politically motivated.

(Reporting by Hereward Holland; Editing by Alexander Dziadosz and Karolina Tagaris)