Kerry to Appoint Envoy to Sudan After Oil Dispute With South

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said he’ll appoint a new special envoy to Sudan and South Sudan, after a dispute over oil revenue between the newly separated states brought them to the brink of war last year.

The dispute involves “very significant border challenges” as well as issues related to secularism and Islamic law, Kerry said yesterday at a press conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. He called for a referendum on the status of the disputed Abyei region.

South Sudan seceded in 2011. Most of the formerly united country’s oil fields are in the south. Disagreements over revenue from the crude, which is carried through the north via pipelines, led to a 15-month shutdown of oil production before it resumed last month. The two nations have also deployed troops near the border, and each has accused the other of backing rebels in its territory.

Kerry, who’s attending the 50th anniversary meeting of the African Union in the Ethiopian capital, met with Sudan’s Foreign Minister Ali Karti yesterday. Today, he met with South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir and reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to ensuring oil continues to flow, a State Department official said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss confidential talks.

At the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa today, the Ethiopian winner of this year’s Boston Marathon, Lelisa Desisa, 23, gave Kerry his medal and asked him to pass it on to the people of Boston “as a gesture of my solidarity with the victims of this senseless act of violence.” Two ethnic Chechen brothers, one in custody and the other killed in a firefight with police, are suspected of setting off bombs that killed three people and injured more than 200 at this year’s race.

Shipments to Resume

The first shipment of South Sudanese oil may arrive at Sudan’s Red Sea port by the end of this month after the two nations’ leaders met May 24 to resolve border issues that delayed the resumption of exports, Karti said in an interview.

Oil production might be affected if the location of the two border points are not agreed on, South Sudan’s Foreign Minister Nhial Deng Nhial said in an interview. The problem shouldn’t have prevented exports resuming after South Sudan pumped crude at the rate of as much as 150,000 barrels a day since May 3, he said in Addis Ababa May 24.

There was no progress on agreeing a process for deciding who Abyei belongs to, Nhial said.

Kerry also called on Nigeria to respect human rights as it battles the Boko Haram Islamic militant movement.

“We defend the right completely of the government of Nigeria to defend itself and to fight back against terrorists,” Kerry said. He said he has raised with the government the importance of troops “not themselves engaging in atrocities or human rights violations” as they crack down on Boko Haram.

‘Some Problems’

“To their credit, the government has acknowledged that there have been some problems and they’re working to try to control it,” Kerry said.

Boko Haram has carried out gun and bomb attacks across Nigeria’s north and Abuja, the capital, since 2009, saying it is fighting to establish Islamic rule. President Goodluck Jonathan imposed emergency rule in three northeastern states on May 14, and the Nigerian army last week began an air and ground offensive against the group.

The State Department condemned “vicious terrorist attacks” in neighboring Niger last week that left 23 people dead. A group linked to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Mahgreb said it participated in the suicide bombings.

Kerry held talks yesterday with United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, who’s attending the African Union Meeting. They discussed preparations for a Syria peace conference to be held in Geneva next month, an initiative of the U.S. and Russia, the State Department said.

Kerry also met with Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi. Kerry and Mursi agreed that the Syrian opposition needs to expand and unify in order to succeed in ousting the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, according to the State Department.

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