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Sudan in talks with protesters over oil shutdown

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A protester flashes victory signs following the arrival in Port Sudan of a delegation led by a member of Sudan's ruling Sovereign Council on September 26, 2021./AFP
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Sep 27, 2021 - 10:54 AM

Khartoum, Sudan — Sudan’s transitional government on Sunday held talks in the Red Sea trade hub of Port Sudan with leaders of a protest movement that threatened   the impoverished country’s fuel supplies and revenue.

Information Minister Hamza Baloul confirmed to AFP the arrival of a senior delegation while another senior official, who preferred to remain anonymous, said “the delegation won’t come back (to the capital Khartoum) before solving the crisis”.

A protest leader announced on September 20 that dozens of demonstrators, objecting to parts of a peace deal with rebel groups, had blocked the main container and oil export terminals in Port Sudan.

By Saturday, Sudan’s Oil Minister Gadein Ali Obeid warned of “an extremely grave situation” with two pipelines blocked by the protesters.

One transports oil exports from South Sudan while the other handles Sudanese crude imports.

Sudan had reserves to last only for 10 days, Obeid’s ministry said.

Neighbouring South Sudan produces around 162,000 barrels of oil per day, which are transported by pipeline to Port Sudan and then shipped to global markets.

The Khartoum government receives around $25 for every barrel of oil sold from the South, according to official figures.

The delegation to Port Sudan, the country’s main seaport, is headed by Sovereign Council member Shams al-Din Kabashi and other ministers. They include Obeid and Foreign Minister Mariam al-Mahdi, the official SUNA news agency reported.

Kabashi met with protest leaders after his arrival.

Sudan formed the joint civilian-military sovereign ruling council months after the ouster of long-time autocrat Omar al-Bashir in April 2019.

It serves alongside a transitional government, headed by civilian Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, which last October signed a peace agreement with several rebel groups.

But the eastern protesters, from Sudan’s Beja minority, say that the deal with rebels from the Darfur region, Blue Nile and South Kordofan states ignored their interests.

Speaking in Khartoum on Sunday, sovereign council chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan described the protesters’ demands as “a political matter that must be dealt with politically”.

While impeding access to Port Sudan, the protesters late last week also blocked the entrance to the city’s airport and a bridge linking Kassala with the rest of the country.

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