Oil Claims Hidden Beneath Conflicts: Experts

Azerbaijan, Baku, 5 June / corr Trend E.Tariverdiyeva, R.Hafizoglu / The resumption of dispute in Sudan between the government troops and southern dissidents is not based on national interests, but claims for Abeyi, possessing huge oil fields. "The clashes in Sudan does not have interethnic motives. The North and South are fighting for their claims against the oil-rich Abeyi region," Osman Ahmad, an official representative of Sudan Parliament said.

The clashes between the government troops and popular liberation army of Sudan have broken out in Abeyi region, since mid-May. The political situation in the oil-rich Abeyi region is extremely tense. The status of this region was not defined by a peace agreement, concluded between North and South in 2005.

The resistance has no national grounds, despite of the efforts by some forces to introduce this situation as inter-religious and interethnic conflict, Ahmad told to Trend in a telephonic conversation from Khartoum. Abeyi region is rich with oil and other natural resources, and separatists from the South are eager to obtain this city under their control.

The deployment of government forces to solve the conflict in South complicated the exiting situation in the region, Ahmad said. A Peace agreement, concluded between the Government and opposition, as well as tribes of the North and South in 2005, defined the status of Abeyi as neutral. At that time, an agreement was achieved to hold referendum regarding the unity and independence of the South in 2011, after the national elections in 2009. However, the southerners violated an armistice agreement. "Many think that the Government of Sudan provokes the southerners to rebel and break the referendum. However, it is not true because at present the Government of Sudan really needs stability in the region to develop its economy," Ahmad said.

According to Ahmad, even the UN's attempts to regulate this situation failed. "The UN methods and terms to stabilize the situation in the country counteract national interests and threaten the territorial integrity of Sudan. "Resistance in Abeyi is an internal affair of Sudan and Khartoum will not make any compromise even if it meets pressures by the US and Europe," he said.

The current conflict in disputed Abeyi, which is located in the North-South border region, will result in a resumption of war between the North and South.  The inability to resolve the Abeyi dispute will, however, put in jeopardy the longer term success of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), which calls for elections in 2009 and a referendum by southerners on the future of the South in 2011, David H. Shinn,Adjunct Professor of George Washington University, told to Trend on 5 June.

If the northern government in Khartoum concludes that the South is headed irrevocably towards independence and that, as a result, the North will lose much of the oil producing region of Sudan, the North may resume support for southern dissident groups, Shinn said via e-mail. This has happened in the past and might permit the North to argue that there is too much conflict in the South to allow it to have independence, he said.

According to the expert, the Government of Sudan is already collaborating with the United Nations to resolve the conflicts in Darfur and the one between the North and South.  A UN peacekeeping operation has been present in the southern Sudan for several years.  A hybrid African Union/UN peacekeeping operation is being established in Darfur.  "The government of Sudan has reluctantly accepted these missions, especially the one in Darfur.  There are, however, strict limits on Khartoum's willingness to cooperate with the UN," he wrote.    

A referendum on unity or independence is supposed to take place in 2011, after the national elections in 2009.  The process is in jeopardy at the moment because of the conflict in Abeyi, an important source of oil wealth.  Depending on how you define the South and that is a big part of the problem as both the South and North claim Abeyi, the South argues that the North has improperly sent troops there.  The North argues that it is trying to keep the peace.

The correspondent can be contacted at [email protected]

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