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BEIJING: China never promised South Sudan $8 billion in development funds when South Sudanese President Salva Kiir visited Beijing in April, but much more than this could be offered if the country achieves lasting peace, a senior diplomat said yesterday.
South Sudan’s government announced the figure following the trip, and until now Beijing has neither confirmed nor denied it.
China’s special envoy to Africa, Zhong Jianhua, who has helped in mediation efforts between the two Sudans and knows both countries well, said there was no $8 billion development deal.
“If there was any promise, it was that after South Sudan achieves peace with Sudan then it is a very promising country and can ramp up development, and then China is willing to play a development role in South Sudan and help them. But those plans have to wait for peace before we can talk about this,” Zhong said.
“I don’t believe that this is something both sides acknowledged following the visit.
“This was not mentioned in any of the official Chinese reports following the visit; there was nothing about $8 billion,” he added.
“It’s not impossible — maybe in the future, and maybe not only $8 billion,” Zhong said.
“It needs a development plan, and a big one at that. It faces a lot of challenges. I’ve been to Juba many times. Running water, electricity, road lights, bridges — it needs a lot.” Relations between the two Sudans soured soon after South Sudan achieved independence in 2011 following a long and bloody civil war, due to arguments over oil revenues and territory.
Landlocked South Sudan shut down its 350,000 barrel-per-day crude output in January last year in a row with Sudan over how much it should pay to send the oil through Sudanese pipelines to the Red Sea.
South Sudan said on Tuesday it would be ready to restart oil production within three weeks after finalising a deal to resolve bitter border and security disputes with Sudan. Beijing is one of Sudanese President Omar Hassan Al Bashir’s major supporters.