South Sudan will take legal action against Sudan and any companies engaging in the “theft” of its oil exports, the country’s oil ministersaid on Friday.
Stephen Dhieu Dau branded any sale of southern oil confiscated by Sudan “an illegal act,” in response to Khartoum’s announcement on Wednesday that it would take 23 percent of southern exports after the latest African Union-mediated talks on revenue sharing collapsed.
“The government of South Sudan will not tolerate any public or private party operating in South Sudan or providing services to South Sudan to act in any way complicit in the theft of South Sudan’s oil,” Dhieu Dau said in a statement.
Khartoum and Juba are locked in a bitter row over how much the landlocked south should pay to use the north’s infrastructure.
South Sudan split from the north in July, taking with it the vast majority of the former Sudan’s oil production capacity amounting to 75 percent of the country’s 450,000 barrels per day.
The north’s oil minister said on Monday that Khartoum had stopped southern exports belonging to the Juba government because it owed $727 million for fees covering the period from July to October.
After a rare intervention by top buyer China, urging both parties to “exercise restraint,” Sudan’s chief oil negotiator assured that exports had not stopped, but said the north would take a cut of the south’s oil as “payment in kind” until an agreement on transit fees was reached.
On Friday, Dhieu Dau said the south was already paying for the use of the north’s pipelines and infrastructure, and that any claims to the contrary were “blatantly false.”
“There is no economic, legal, or other justification for the unilateral taking of South Sudan’s oil,” and the government would pursue any direct or third party involved in its sale, he said.
Both countries depend heavily on their oil revenues, which make up some 98 percent of the Juba government’s total income.
Tensions between the two nations have risen in recent weeks, amid escalating violence in the oil-producing border region and accusations by southern officials that Sudan is provoking an “oil war.”
“The unilateral taking of South Sudan’s oil by the Sudan would be an illegal act, which would not result in any benefit to the Republic of Sudan,” Dhieu Dau warned, urging the north to accept a $5.4 billion package deal on financial assistance, oil and territory.