South Sudan and Israel signed, in the latter’s capital Tel Aviv, their first economic cooperation agreement which focuses on development of technology and water infrastructure.
The deal was signed during a ceremony held at the Knesset between South Sudan’s visiting minister of water and irrigation, Paul Mayom Akec, and on behalf the Jewish state by Zvika Fox, the vice president of strategy and marketing of Israel’s Israel Military Industries Ltd (IMI).
Israel’s Energy and Water Ministry said the deal outlined plans for cooperation between the two countries on desalination, irrigation, water transport and purification.
It is not clear, however, why the agreement was not signed with the relevant ministry but with the IMI which is a weapon manufacturer specializing, according to its website, in the production of modern land, air and naval combat systems.
Speaking at the signing ceremony, the South Sudanese minister pointed out that his country is facing tough economic times due to its dispute with neighbouring Sudan on oil exports.
In January this year, land-locked South Sudan shut down its daily oil production of 350,000 barrels, the lifeblood of the economy, following a bitter dispute with Sudan on a fair charge to transfer the commodity through the latter’s pipelines.
Mayom complained that Sudan is asking for $36 US for every barrel of oil going through its territories, a demand he described as “absolutely unprecedented”.
The minister however suggested that the new agreement with Israel could potentially allow South Sudan to transfer its oil to Israeli refineries, which his country also lacks.
“This way we will help you solve various problems in your area,” he said. “We will be pleased to examine this.”
Israel and South Sudan established diplomatic relations in the wake of the latter’s secession from Sudan in July last year.