South Sudan Says It’s Pulling Out of Oil-Rich Heglig Region
South Sudan said it’s withdrawing its forces from the disputed border region of Heglig as Sudan’s defense minister said Sudanese soldiers drove them out.
“An orderly withdrawal will commence immediately and shall be completed within three days,” government spokesman Barnaba Marial Benjamin told reporters today in Juba, the capital. The decision to pull out is “without prejudice to our stand” that Heglig is part of South Sudan, he said.
Sudanese Defense Minister Abdel Raheem Muhammad Hussein said in a speech on state television that his country’s forces entered the region at 1:15 p.m. today and liberated Heglig town. “The enemy suffered huge losses,” he said.
South Sudan occupied the oil-rich Heglig region on April 10 in an escalation of fighting between the two countries. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon yesterday called the move an “illegal act.” While both nations claim Heglig, Sudan has administered its oil fields since the south seceded in July, assuming control of about three-quarters of the formerly united country’s production of 490,000 barrels a day.
After southern forces occupied the area, oil production of 40,000 barrels a day has been shut down, out of Sudan’s total output of 115,000 barrels a day, the Sudanese ambassador to Kenya, Kamal Ismail Saeed, said in Nairobi on April 18.
Oil Facility Burning
Sudan will seek compensation from South Sudan for the damage caused by its occupation of Heglig, Omar Dahab, head of the international cooperation department at the Foreign Ministry, said in a phone interview from Khartoum, the Sudanese capital. The damage is still being assessed, he said.
South Sudan’s military spokesman, Philip Aguer, said Sudanese forces yesterday bombed the central processing facility in Heglig. “That facility has been burning through the night,” he told reporters today in Juba.
Benjamin called on Sudan to halt aerial bombardments and ground incursions into South Sudan, while the U.K. government urged the two countries to resume negotiations.
“We hope the withdrawal will be orderly and that both sides will refrain from further military action,” Alastair McPhail, the U.K. ambassador to South Sudan, told reporters today in Juba.
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