* China is top investor in South Sudan's oil industry
* Kiir, Bashir discuss joint force to protect oilfields
* More than 1,000 people killed in three weeks of fighting
(Adds detail from United Nations)
By Aaron Maasho and Khaled Abdelaziz
ADDIS ABABA/KHARTOUM, Jan 6 China, the biggest
investor in South Sudan's oil industry, called on Monday for an
immediate ceasefire in the world's newest state, as rebel and
government negotiators haggled over the scope of peace talks
meant to end three weeks of fighting.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Beijing was deeply
concerned by the unrest in South Sudan that has killed more than
a thousand people and forced the government to cut oil
production by about a fifth.
Sudan, which also has an economic interest in its southern
neighbour's oil output, said the Juba government discussed the
deployment of a joint force to secure its oilfields during a
visit by Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir.
"China's position with regard to the current situation in
South Sudan is very clear," Wang told reporters in Addis Ababa,
where the peace talks are taking place. "First, we call for an
immediate cessation of hostilities and violence."
An Ethiopian delegate said Wang had met both rebel and
Three weeks of fighting, which began in the capital but
spread beyond, often along ethnic faultlines, have pitted
President Salva Kiir's SPLA government forces against rebels
loyal to former vice president Riek Machar.
The peace talks opened formally on Saturday in Ethiopia, but
delegates have yet to sit down for face-to-face negotiations.
The fighting is the worst in South Sudan since it won
independence from Sudan in 2011 in a peace deal that ended one
of Africa's longest civil wars.
China is the biggest investor in oilfields in South Sudan,
through state-owned Chinese oil giants China National Petroleum
Corp (CNPC) and Sinopec. The fighting forced CNPC to
Sudanese Foreign Minister Ali Karti said Kiir and Bashir had
discussed the deployment of a joint force to secure oilfields
under threat from the rebels. He said the areas of deployment
would be discussed at a later date.
The prospect of security cooperation between the two
countries would represent a remarkable improvement in ties,
after the civil war foes came close to conflict again in
disputes over oil fees and the border in the early part of 2012.
South Sudan's oil production fell by 45,000 barrels per day
to 200,000 bpd after oilfields in its northern Unity state were
shut down due to fighting. Upper Nile state is still pumping
about 200,000 bpd, the government says.
Oil major BP estimates that South Sudan holds sub-Saharan
Africa's third-largest reserves. All of landlocked South Sudan's
oil is piped through its northern neighbour, providing vital
hard currency in transit fees for Khartoum.
Historian Douglas Johnson said the risk to revenues if the
fighting spread to more oilfields would be a worry for Khartoum.
He also said oil companies would be reluctant to return to
"A deal between Juba and Khartoum whereby Sudan helps to
provide security in the oilfields would probably bring at least
some of the oil companies back," said Johnson.
The lack of progress at peace talks has unnerved foreign
powers, who worry that South Sudan could spiral into full-blown
"The delaying tactics that we are seeing at the moment in
Addis Ababa give us cause to fear that the conflicting sides
have no real interest in a swift political solution," said a
German Foreign Ministry spokesman.
The United Nations said there had been signs over the
weekend of pro- and anti-government troops mobilizing around the
country and reports of military clashes.
The world body is working to almost double the number of
peacekeepers it has in South Sudan to 12,500 in a bid to better
protect thousands of civilians sheltering at its bases.
The U.N. mission in South Sudan, known as UNMISS, said
three Bangladeshi military utility helicopters deployed to Juba
on Monday, on loan from the U.N. peacekeeping operation in
neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo.
A rebel delegate at the peace talks on Monday reiterated a
complaint that Ugandan forces and gunships were attacking rebel
Ugandan army spokesman Paddy Ankunda said it was deploying
more troops in South Sudan because security had worsened, but
added they were there to help stranded Ugandans. Ugandan forces
also patrol Juba's airport at Kiir's invitation.
"If the Ugandans are doing what ... the opposition are
claiming - which is active military intervention in support of
any of the sides to the conflict other than protect critical
infrastructure and installations within South Sudan - then that,
I believe, would be absolutely unwarranted," said Getachew Reda,
spokesman for Ethiopia's prime minister.
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni said on Dec. 30 that east
African countries would have to "defeat" Machar if he rejected a
(Additional reporting by Carl Odera in Juba, Richard Lough in
Nairobi, Michelle Nichols at the United Nations and Annika
Breidthardt in Berlin; Writing by Richard Lough; Editing by
Alister Doyle, Mike Collett-White and Ken Wills)