Shipments of South Sudanese oil from Sudan have resumed after more than a year, a senior petroleum ministry official said on Thursday, but the South expressed concern Khartoum might stop the flow.
“The first shipment already left” from the Port Sudan terminal, Awad Elkarim Mohammed, undersecretary at the oil ministry, told AFP.
The load departed around June 21st but Mohammed said he was not sure who bought it.
“It is exported from South Sudan’s oil field,” he said.
Barnaba Marial Benjamin, spokesman for the South’s government in Juba, confirmed a shipment had left.
But he said a threat from Khartoum to shut the export pipeline “is still there”.
South Sudan became independent two years ago under a peace deal that ended a 22-year civil war. It separated with most of Sudan’s 470,000 barrels per day of oil production, but the export infrastructure remained under northern control.
Until March, when the two countries reached detailed timetables to implement nine agreements on oil and security after months of intermittent border clashes, the two sides had not been able to agree on how much the South should pay to use the pipeline.
South Sudan then resumed pumping its oil, which began slowly moving through towards Port Sudan, after Juba closed its wells early last year in the fee dispute.
Then on June 8th Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir abruptly ordered shut the pipeline carrying the South’s crude, after warning the South over backing rebels in the north.
Juba denies supporting cross-border insurgents.
Sudan’s Information Minister Ahmed Bilal Osman said Khartoum was freezing all nine agreements, including the oil deal.
But in a conciliatory gesture, he also said some South Sudanese oil had already reached the export terminal and the South was free to sell it, as long as it paid the fees owed to Khartoum.
Mohammed, the oil ministry official, said on Thursday that “there are some preparations” for shutting the pipeline and “the decision of the president is still valid”.