KHARTOUM, June 20 (Reuters) - South Sudan's vice president
will visit Khartoum next week, Sudanese state media said on
Thursday, marking the highest-level talks since Sudan threatened
to cut off cross-border oil flows almost two weeks ago.
Bilateral ties hit a new low this month when Sudan said it
would halt oil exports that pass through Sudan for shipment
abroad within 60 days unless Juba gave up support for rebels
operating across the shared border. Juba denies the claims.
Since then, the African Union has been trying to defuse the
situation, hoping a relative peace will hold between the
neighbours, which split in 2011.
The two, which fought decades of civil wars that ended in
2005, came close to war in April 2012 when tensions over oil
pipeline fees and disputed territory escalated.
Both countries agreed South Sudanese Vice President Riek
Machar will visit Sudan in one week, state news agency SUNA
said, citing the Foreign Ministry. His trip had been planned for
Sunday, but was delayed because some Sudanese ministers would be
out of Khartoum then, it added.
There was no immediate comment from the South, which has
said it would send Machar to defuse the oil crisis.
The dispute threatens to hit supplies to Asian buyers such
as China National Petroleum Corp, India's ONCG Videsh and
Malaysia's Petronas, which run the oilfields in both countries.
Diplomats doubt Sudan will close the two cross-border export
pipelines because its economy has been suffering without South
Sudan's pipeline fees.
Oil used to be the main source for Sudan's budget until
southern secession in July 2011, when Khartoum lost 75 percent
of its oil production and its status as oil exporter overnight.
Both countries accuse each other of backing rebels on the
other's territory, one of several conflicts stemming from the
split of what was once Africa's largest country.
(Reporting by Ulf Laessing; Editing by Stacey Joyce)