Sudan rivals 'to resume pumping oil'
South Sudan and Sudan have agreed to resume pumping oil after a bitter dispute over fees which saw production shut down more than a year ago.
The South, which seceded from the rest of Sudan in 2011, will begin oil production again by 24 March, under the deal negotiated in Ethiopia.
Both states rely heavily on oil, which is pumped from the South through Sudan's pipelines for export.
They also agreed to withdraw troops from their border area.
A demilitarised buffer zone is to be set up, with the intention of improving security. Trade deals and a committee to agree on the disputed border were also discussed in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.
The 17-page document signed by Sudanese and South Sudanese negotiators, and African Union mediator Thabo Mbeki is a detailed timetable to implement several agreements.
Oil will grab the headlines, but trade is arguably even more important to the Sudanese and South Sudanese living near the disputed border. The demilitarised buffer zone is vital for security too.
The fact that the timetable was needed is an indication of the difficulties between Sudan and South Sudan.
This is not a new deal - it is simply a commitment to implement the nine agreements which were signed last September.
Despite international pressure from the AU, the US, and China, among others, those vital treaties have not yet come to anything on the ground.
Because of this, many people in Sudan and South Sudan will wait to see the oil actually flowing before they start cheering.
However it is the commitment to get the oil flowing again which will attract the most attention, says the BBC's former Khartoum correspondent, James Copnall.
South Sudan's government used to earn 98% of its revenues from oil and its economy has collapsed since it shut down oil production, with vital development work put on hold, our correspondent says.
Sudan has been suffering too - the IMF predicted that its economy would shrink by 11% in 2012 because of the loss of oil revenue following the South's secession.
The worsening economic situation in Sudan has led to street protests, although the activists who hoped for a "Sudanese summer" to follow the "Arab Spring" have so far been disappointed, our correspondent says.
If this timetable is respected, Sudan's economy should benefit from billions of dollars coming from oil transit fees, and from a compensatory payment for allowing the South to secede, he says.
But he notes that the timetable would not be necessary if both countries had implemented the agreements on all these matters they signed in September. As a result many people in both Sudans will wait for the oil to start flowing before they raise their hopes too much.Ordered back
Asked when the orders would be given to resume oil flows, former South African President Thabo Mbeki, who was mediating between the two sides, told reporters: "The instruction to the companies is D-day [10 March plus 14]."
Asked why a deal to implement the September agreements had been reached now, South Sudanese Information Minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin told the BBC's Newsday programme it was thanks to the negotiating efforts of Mr Mbeki and the African Union.
"The need for peace between the two countries is something they require in order to live side by side," he said.
Main disputes between the two Sudans
- Transit fees South Sudan should pay Sudan to use its oil pipelines
- Demarcating the border
- Both sides claim Abyei
- The rights of each other's citizens now in a foreign country - there are estimated to be 500,000 southerners in Sudan and 80,000 Sudanese in South Sudan
- Each accuses the other of supporting rebel groups on its territory
An estimated 75% of all the former Sudan's oil reserves are in South Sudan but the refineries and pipeline to the Red Sea are in Sudan.
In January 2012, disagreement on sharing oil revenues led South Sudan to halt its 350,000 barrel-per-day output, and halve public spending on everything but salaries.
Ten border crossing points, vital to local traders, will open within a week under the agreement, AFP news agency reports.
Both states said they would withdraw troops from contested border areas.
South Sudan's army spokesman, Philip Aguer, said soldiers would take around two weeks to withdraw southwards.
Troops must "start moving to the designated areas, 10km [six miles] away from the buffer zone," Mr Aguer told reporters.
Sudan's Defence Minister, Abdelrahim Mohammed Hussein, said his forces were committed to a timetable signed under Mr Mbeki's mediation on Friday.
Troops, he said, began withdrawing from the buffer zone on Sunday.
South Sudan gained independence from Sudan on 9 July 2011 as the outcome of a 2005 peace deal that ended Africa's longest-running civil war.
About 1.5 million people are thought to have lost their lives in the conflict.
Both Sudan and the South are reliant on their oil revenues, which account for 98% of South Sudan's budget. But the two countries cannot agree how to divide the oil wealth of the former united state. Some 75% of the oil lies in the South but all the pipelines run north. It is feared that disputes over oil could lead the two neighbours to return to war.
Although they were united for many years, the two Sudans were always very different. The great divide is visible even from space, as this Nasa satellite image shows. The northern states are a blanket of desert, broken only by the fertile Nile corridor. South Sudan is covered by green swathes of grassland, swamps and tropical forest.
Sudan's arid north is mainly home to Arabic-speaking Muslims. But in South Sudan there is no dominant culture. The Dinkas and the Nuers are the largest of more than 200 ethnic groups, each with its own languages and traditional beliefs, alongside Christianity and Islam.
The health inequalities in Sudan are illustrated by infant mortality rates. In South Sudan, one in 10 children die before their first birthday. Whereas in the more developed northern states, such as Gezira and White Nile, half of those children would be expected to survive.
The gulf in water resources between north and south is stark. In Khartoum, River Nile, and Gezira states, two-thirds of people have access to piped drinking water and pit latrines. In the south, boreholes and unprotected wells are the main drinking sources. More than 80% of southerners have no toilet facilities whatsoever.
Throughout the two Sudans, access to primary school education is strongly linked to household earnings. In the poorest parts of the south, less than 1% of children finish primary school. Whereas in the wealthier north, up to 50% of children complete primary level education.
Conflict and poverty are the main causes of food insecurity in both countries. In Sudan, many of the residents of war-affected Darfur and the border states of Blue Nile and South Kordofan, depend on food aid. The UN said about 2.8m people in South Sudan would require food aid in 2013. The northern states tend to be wealthier, more urbanised and less reliant on agriculture.