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The two Sudans' interdependence won't end with South's secession

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Goran Tomasevic/Reuters

(Read caption) Traditionally dressed men dance during a Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) rally in Juba on July 5.

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"Leaders of north and south Sudan agreed on Monday to continue talks on a series of disputes after the south’s impending secession, officials said, a move that will disappoint Western countries hoping for a quick deal.

Sudan’s oil-producing south is due to declare independence on Saturday — a split that was voted for in a referendum promised in a 2005 north/south peace deal.

The north and south, which fought each other during decades of civil war, have yet to agree on the position of their shared border and how they will manage oil revenues."

South Sudan’s independence is a big deal, and it will change things for Sudan and for the region. But North-South interdependence will not end on July 9. For at least the medium term, economic linkages and security issues will involve each country deeply in the other’s affairs. With most of the oil in the South, but the pipeline, ports, and refinery facilities in the North, the two countries will need to work together to make a profit. And with many former South Sudanese fighters or sympathizers still in the North, the border issues unresolved, and violence ongoing, the security questions also loom large. Negotiations over these issues will clearly take at least some time, and the underlying interdependence will remain in place until and unless something dramatic happens, like the construction of a new pipeline from South Sudan through Kenya or Ethiopia.

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Alex Thurston is a PhD student studying Islam in Africa at Northwestern University and blogs at Sahel Blog.