South Sudan to halt oil production in row with Khartoum

  • 20 January 2012
  • From the section Africa
Two workers born in the oil reach Southern Sudan state of Unity, stand on the drilling site number 102 in the Unity oil field in Southern Sudan on November 11, 2010.
Image caption Both Sudan and South Sudan are heavily dependent on oil revenues

South Sudan says it will halt oil production amid a dispute over sharing revenues with the Khartoum government.

South Sudan gained independence in July 2011 but the two states have not been able to agree on how to divide their oil wealth.

Most of the oil is produced in the south but is exported from Port Sudan in the north.

Sudan has accused the south of not paying transport fees and said it is taking the revenues in lieu of payment.

The two sides are currently holding talks in Ethiopia to try and reach a deal.

China, a major buyer of oil from both countries, has urged them to resolve their differences.

Oil talks

But South Sudan's Information Minister Marial Barnaba Benjamin told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme that the cabinet had decided to turn off the taps, a process which could take two weeks.

"We are not benefiting from the oil," he said, accusing Khartoum of stealing it.

Sudan had unilaterally taken crude oil to the value of $350m (£225m) in the space of three weeks, Mr Barnaba said.

The South Sudanese government felt there was no guarantee that oil exported through Sudan would reach international buyers, he added.

Al Obeid Morawah, spokesman for Sudan's foreign affairs ministry, told the BBC that South Sudan was free to do whatever it wanted, but a stoppage would hurt it more than Sudan.

The stoppage may be a tactical move by South Sudan, as both countries are involved in negotiations, Mr Morawah added.

South Sudan has to export oil via the north because it has no port or refineries of its own.

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