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 problems related to secularism and Islamic law, Kerry said at a press conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia today. 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 today. Scheduled talks with South Sudan's President Salva Kiir were postponed, the State Department said.
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 yesterday to resolve border issues that delayed the resumption of exports, Karti said in an interview yesterday.
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 yesterday.
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.
"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 yesterday condemned "vicious terrorist attacks" in neighboring Niger this week that left 23 people dead. A group linked to Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Mahgreb said it participated in the suicide bombings.
Kerry also held talks today 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.