Yet southerners – and the international community – remain unconvinced Bashir is ready to let the south go, despite the fact he agreed to the plebiscite under a 2005 US-brokered peace deal. South Sudan is home to 80 percent of the nation’s oil production, vast tracts of arable land, and most of Sudan’s above-ground water.
The US is hoping to use its diplomatic weight to try to persuade Sudan to abide by its own rules. But Obama’s options are limited. Short of military action, the US has little to threaten Sudan with, so heavily was the nation put under sanctions during Bill Clinton and George W. Bush’s presidencies.
So instead of “sticks,” the Obama administration is trying a different track: incentives, or “carrots.” Kerry’s new proposal sweetens a previous offer from the Obama administration by speeding up the timeframe the administration can expect the terror label to be lifted, and by making it independent of developments in Darfur, where conflict continues.
Publicly, Bashir’s National Congress Party claims it is fully committed to implementing the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement and will accept the result of the southern referendum, so it is difficult to judge how the offer has been received.
“This proposal from [Kerry] does not matter,” NCP communication officer Rabi Abdel-Atti told the Monitor. “The two sides are already engaged in continuous discussions, and the negotiations are proceeding. We don’t understand what outside proposals have to do with anything.”
The Obama administration’s hope is that this offer will strengthen pragmatists around Bashir who believe the regime can not afford another war and should instead strike a deal with a seceding Southern Sudan to share oil revenues.