West presses Sudan, SSudan to reach oil deal

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Western powers on Tuesday urged Sudan and South Sudan to hold talks as soon as possible to reach an agreement on oil exports, hoping to avert fresh conflict in the wake of Juba's independence.

The United States, Britain and Norway in a joint statement said they "strongly urge" Sudan and South Sudan to convene a new round of talks on oil exports before the scheduled date of December 20.

"We urge both states to finalize as soon as possible a sustainable agreement that encompasses all outstanding petroleum sector and financial issues," said the statement by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, British Foreign Secretary William Hague ad Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Store.

Khartoum won international praise for accepting South Sudan's independence in July after decades of bloodshed. But the new landlocked state took with it around three-quarters of the nation's oil production capacity.

November 25-30 talks arranged by the African Union failed, with Khartoum -- which controls access to the sea -- saying it would take 23 percent of southern exports. South Sudan said such a move would amount to theft.

The United States, Britain and Norway also pressed Sudan and South Sudan to withdraw forces from the fertile border region of Abyei. The Sudanese army took over Abyei in May, causing some 110,000 residents to flee.

The UN and African Union brokered a September agreement under which both nations would withdraw forces and some 4,200 Ethiopian peacekeepers would come in, but the UN says Khartoum and Juba have not honored their commitment.

"Swift resolution of these outstanding issues will advance security and prosperity for citizens of both countries," the US, British and Norwegian top diplomats said.

"We further call on the parties to refrain from any further destabilizing actions or inflammatory language that might jeopardize the relations between both states," they said.

The United States, Britain and Norway form a so-called "troika" of powers on Sudan. Britain was the vast African nation's former colonial power, while Norway is a major provider of aid.

© 2011 AFP

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