What's In Blue

Posted Wed 17 Feb 2016

Sudan/South Sudan Consultations

Tomorrow (18 February), Special Envoy of the Secretary-General Haile Menkerios is expected to provide the quarterly briefing to Council members on Sudan/South Sudan issues in consultations, via video-teleconference. These quarterly briefings—originally held on a semi-monthly basis—focus on the implementation of resolution 2046 of May 2012, which addresses several unresolved issues between Sudan and South Sudan and the conflict in Sudan’s South Kordofan and Blue Nile States.

Some members have noted recent positive developments in relations between Sudan and South Sudan. One issue that may be raised at tomorrow’s meeting is Sudan’s 27 January decision to open border crossings with South Sudan, which have been closed for the past five years. This was reportedly prompted by South Sudan’s decision to move its troops 5 miles from its border with Sudan in an apparent goodwill gesture. Sudan has stated that the lack of cross-border trade has cost the country $7 billion in income, according to the Sudan Tribune.

The recent discussions between Sudan and South Sudan on the fees South Sudan pays for the shipment of oil through Sudan will probably also be referred to in the meeting. In August 2012, South Sudan and Sudan agreed on oil transit fees, as South Sudan is a landlocked country that that must transport its oil through Sudan for it to reach the outside world. However, with world oil prices plummeting, South Sudan’s oil-derived income has continued to decline, and it requested that the fees be renegotiated. On 3 February, Sudan announced that the fees would be adjusted according to changes in the global price of oil.

Members may want further information from Menkerios on the opening of the borders and the renegotiation of oil fees, how these measures might impact relations between the two countries, and whether progress on these issues can serve as a springboard to negotiations on unresolved matters between the two states. These matters include border demarcation; the status of disputed areas on the border, including Abyei; and border security. Members have long recognised that internal security and political problems in Sudan and South Sudan have made it difficult for them to exert significant energy negotiating with one another. They may want to know what efforts have been made by the parties to reconvene the Joint Political and Security Mechanism (JPSM), the instrument employed by Sudan and South Sudan to discuss political and security matters of mutual concern.

Menkerios may provide his views on the status of negotiations between Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) in the Two Areas (i.e., South Kordofan and Blue Nile States). From 19 to 23 November 2015, unsuccessful talks were held between the government of Sudan and the SPLM-N in Addis Ababa, focusing on efforts to cease hostilities and provide humanitarian access to the Two Areas. Subsequent informal discussions were held between the parties in Addis Ababa (16 to 18 December 2015) and in Berlin (22 to 23 January 2016), also without progress. Members may be interested in learning about plans for the next steps in these negotiations.

Since the conflict erupted between Sudan and the SPLM-N in South Kordofan and Blue Nile States in 2011, the continued lack of humanitarian access has been a recurring topic of discussion among members. Such concerns are likely to be raised again by some members in tomorrow’s consultations. The issue of humanitarian access to these areas has traditionally been a divisive issue, with some members expressing concern about the consequences of the lack of access to civilian populations and others reluctant to put pressure on Sudan to allow access.

There may be interest as well in recent developments in the national dialogue process in Sudan. The rebel groups and the key opposition parties have refused to participate in the dialogue for a variety of reasons, complaining about government repression and questioning its lack of commitment to substantive reforms. Some members may want to know Menkerios’ views on the status of the dialogue. One permanent member has maintained that the national dialogue, which Menkerios often discusses in Sudan/South Sudan consultations, should not be a topic of discussion in these meetings, as it is not within the purview of resolution 2046.

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