January 31, 2012 / 5:48 AM / in 6 years

US urges swift oil deal for South Sudan, Khartoum

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The United States on Monday called for a swift agreement between Sudan and South Sudan on the division of oil and revenues between Khartoum and its new neighbor.

Sudan has released four tankers loaded with South Sudanese oil to try to defuse a dispute over export transit fees, but southern officials say the move was not enough to reverse South Sudan’s decision to shut off crude supplies.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice told reporters after a closed-door meeting of the U.N. Security Council on South Sudan that Khartoum’s move to release the tankers was an “overdue and important step.”

“We hope that conditions can quickly be created so that the parties can sit at the table and finalize, as swiftly as possible, a permanent arrangement with respect to the oil and revenue sharing, without which both sides will suffer and the loss of oil revenue will be crippling to all,” Rice said.

South Sudan seceded in July under a 2005 peace agreement that ended decades of civil war with Khartoum but the two sides have yet to resolve a long list of disputes. Disentangling the oil industries both depend upon is among their top priorities.

Rice also reiterated Washington’s “grave concern ... about the deteriorating situation in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile, the humanitarian crisis there, which is becoming more and more urgent.”

The United States has pressed Khartoum to allow more aid into the South Kordofan and Blue Nile states, citing expert reports that said more than a quarter of a million people could be on the brink of famine there by March.

The U.N. World Food Program said on Monday that conflict and food shortages could force up to half a million Sudanese refugees to flee to South Sudan in the next few months if Khartoum does not allow aid agencies into the two states.

Sudan’s U.N. Ambassador Daffa-Alla Elhag Ali Osman this month dismissed concerns of a looming crisis in the two states, saying the situation there was “normal.”

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