ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia, Jan. 28 (UPI) -- Sudan, locked in a dispute with South Sudan over oil fees, agreed to release crude shipments belonging to South Sudan, officials said Saturday.
But while Sudan negotiator Sayed el-Khatib told reporters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where the negotiation are taking place, that Sudan President Omar al-Bashir is "ready to make this gesture" and "Sudan is going to release the vessels detained in Port Sudan," there was no reaction from South Sudan, the BBC reported.
South Sudan, which is oil-rich but dependent on Sudan for its production infrastructure, has threatened to halt oil production Saturday if it can't reach an accord with Sudan over oil fee levels. South Sudan, led by President Salva Kiir, contends Sudan has withheld about $815 million worth of oil.
El-Khatib said letting the oil be shipped was intended to pave the way for a "cover agreement" on the fees issue as early as the end of the day Saturday.
Voice of America had reported a deal between the African neighbors had fallen through Friday.
"These talks could not go anywhere because Khartoum is insisting to continue stealing ... and are determined that they will not rob and steal any oil that will go through the pipeline; that is why we are forced not to send any oil through their pipeline," South Sudan chief negotiator Pagan Amoum said then.