ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia — South Sudan has urged the African Union (AU) to help resolve a bitter dispute with former civil war foes Sudan, after Khartoum ordered oil pipelines to be shut and accusing Juba of backing rebels.
"Our president and the government of South Sudan is calling on the African Union to intervene," Juba's lead negotiator Pagan Amum told reporters, speaking after meetings at AU headquarters in the Ethiopian capital.
Sudan formally told oil companies on Tuesday to block exports of South Sudanese crude within 60 days, following an order from President Omar al-Bashir.
"As we speak the oil is flowing, what Sudan has made so far is a threat," Amum said, adding Juba is ready to meet with Khartoum's officials at any time to break the deadlock.
If the blockade in enforced "it will reverse all the gains and it will take the two countries back to war," he added.
Despite ordering an oil shutdown, Khartoum has said it remains committed to good relations if South Sudan ends what Khartoum claims is support for rebels on Sudanese soil.
Both countries have traded accusations of supporting rebels in each other's territories since Juba gained independence in 2011, and each rejects the accusations.
Amum accused Khartoum of violating a previous AU-mediated agreement that established a committee to receive complaints about rebel activities.
Relations have been tense between the nations since they agreed detailed timetables in March to implement nine agreements including on security, oil, borders and trade.
AU's top negotiator Thabo Mbeki has made "urgent proposals" to both sides, after officials met separately with Amum and Sudan's Foreign Minister Ali Ahmed Karti, AU officials have said.
The proposals include having the AU "play a much more proactive role" in the implementation of the agreements, Amum said, without giving further details.
South Sudan became independent two years ago under a peace deal that ended a 1983-2005 civil war.
It separated with most of the old Sudan's 470,000 barrels per day of oil production, but the export infrastructure remains under northern control.
© AFP 2013