Sudan’s government said Tuesday that it has appealed to diplomatic partner and investor China for help in resolving a protracted dispute over oil revenues with newly independent South Sudan.
Sudanese Foreign Minister Ali Ahmed Karti said that during a two-day stay in Beijing he delivered a letter from his president to Chinese President Hu Jintao and met with other leaders, as well as executives from state-run China National Petroleum Corp. The message, he said, was to offer Sudan’s continuing support for China’s investment in Sudan. He accused unspecified foreign powers of inciting South Sudan to cut oil supplies to Sudan.
“Some people ask, what does it benefit South Sudan to stop oil production to Sudan? In our judgment, we believe that they're doing this not in the interests of South Sudan but in the interests of foreign political powers,” Karti told a news conference, speaking through a Chinese interpreter. “Many foreign powers do not want Sudan and China to profit from Sudan’s resources.”
Driven by its oil interests, China is caught in the middle of the dispute, despite efforts to build ties to the new government in South Sudan while maintaining long-standing relations with Sudan. China buys about two-thirds of the countries’ oil. The split that separated South Sudan from Sudan in July also divided their China-invested oil industry, leaving the fields mostly in South Sudan but the two pipelines out of them running through Sudan.
South Sudan cut flows to the pipelines last month when Sudan, after months of inconclusive bargaining, said it would divert some of the oil as an in kind transit fee. Nearly 30 Chinese engineering contractors were abducted in Sudan in January.
This month, South Sudan expelled the Chinese head of the largest foreign oil company -- Petrodar Operating Company, which is part-owned by China National Petroleum -- accusing him of abetting Sudan's diversion of oil.
In his meeting with Sudan’s Karti, Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping struck an evenhanded tone, according to official Chinese accounts. “Currently the dispute between Sudan and South Sudan is escalating, drawing attention from the international community. China is concerned about this too,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei recounted Xi as telling Karti.
Hong said that Xi called on both sides to resolve the dispute through negotiations and urged Sudan to ‘take practical measures to ensure the personal safety and property of Chinese companies and citizens working in Sudan.”