Lords Committee call for China to act urgently to save Sudan and South Sudan

22 March 2012

The British Government and the EU need to engage China urgently to save Sudan and South Sudan is the stark message from the House of Lord's European Sub-Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Development Policy in a report published today.

The Committee calls on the EU to work urgently with the African Union and the United Nations to use their influence with Sudan and South Sudan to pull back from their current policies and escalating tensions and seek a mutually advantageous resolution of the outstanding issues between them.

The Committee’ s report follows evidence from Foreign Office Minister Henry Bellingham, and information from other European sources. It is a follow-up to a full report on the situation in Sudan which the Committee published last year.

Following the independence of South Sudan from Sudan last year, relationships between the two states have deteriorated to a critical point.  Both countries need oil exports to China for their economic survival.  But while the oilfields are mainly in the south, the only port for export is in the north, with one pipeline inbetween, this has caused tensions between the two states that are on the verge of escalating to full scale war. 

Commenting Sub-Committee Chair, Lord Teverson stated:

"The deteriorating relationship between newly independent South Sudan and Sudan has become critical.  With a refusal by both Sudans to agree on the distribution of oil revenues, and South Sudan's decision to cut oil supplies to the north, the situation amounts to a suicide pact between two nations.

“Sudan's economy will be crippled, and South Sudan's government revenues will be cut by an estimated 98%.  This is a modern day version of the Cold War's “mutually assured destruction”, but being played out for real.

“With increasing reported cross border incidents, it looks very grim.  Any full blown conflict would be a disaster not only for the two Sudans but the region as a whole.

“Clearly the EU, with the UN and African Union, must do all they can to cool matters and get some sense into the situation.

“But given China’s unique position as a major trading partner for both nations we especially call upon China to step outside its normal comfort zone and act with others to return the sides to negotiation and to get the oil flowing again.  That would be a first step to a new settlement.

“It is China's normal style to step back from that type of public engagement in other states’ affairs.  But here is a unique opportunity for the newest world power to use its economic and political strength for good. This time China needs to step up to the mark to save a part of Africa."