Putting aside lingering hostilities from nearly 50 years of civil war, Sudan and South Sudan have agreed to share profits tied to oil exports from the region that were halted earlier this year.
The agreement, which came after four days of negotiations in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa, includes a provision to establish border security between the two countries, which nearly went to war a few months ago in an ongoing dispute over certain oil-rich areas. The deal, which was to be signed Thursday, reportedly provides for a demilitarized buffer zone between both countries, but does not resolve who will eventually end up with control of several disputed borderlands.
As first noted by The Am Law Daily last year, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom has been busy advising South Sudan, which gained independence from its northern neighbor in July 2011, on all oil-related legal matters.
Douglas Nordlinger, an energy and infrastructure partner in Skadden’s London office, has taken the lead advising South Sudan on oil and gas issues related to its secession from Sudan, including representing South Sudan in negotiations over oil production and transportation arrangements with its former ruler, as well as international oil companies seeking access to the new country’s natural resources.
Nordlinger, who declined to comment through a Skadden spokesman when contacted by The Am Law Daily, is no stranger to African energy deals, having led a team from the firm last year advising an investor group that spent roughly $1 billion to buy parts of Royal Dutch Shell’s African business.
South Sudan’s emergence as a sovereign and independent nation has not been without controversy. This summer bimonthly magazine Foreign Policy took a close look at the cadres of lobbyists, lawyers, non-governmental organizations, politicians, and celebrities that backed a rebel group called the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) in its push for an independent South Sudan.
In April, South Sudan agreed to withdraw troops it had sent to the disputed Heglig oil field in a move that nearly led to another war with Sudan. That country’s army has fought two civil wars and engaged in periodic armed skirmishes with the SPLM for control of oil-rich areas in the south that now border both countries. In June, reports emerged that South Sudanese leaders had stolen an estimated $4 billion in public funds, only a month after the United Nations threatened both South Sudan and Sudan with sanctions unless their respective governments agreed to try to resolve their differences at the negotiating table rather than on the battlefield. (The New Yorker published an in-depth story this summer examining the conflict and South Sudan’s first year of independence.)
Skadden is serving as cocounsel to South Sudan with Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr in an ongoing arbitration proceeding before the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, Netherlands over the disputed Abyei border region. Before the parties returned to the bargaining table in Addis Ababa, South Sudan had proposed using international arbitration to determine the ownership of contested border territories. Skadden lawyers are also doing pro bono work for Sudanese refugees from the region’s various conflicts, according to the firm’s 2011 pro bono report.
Both Sudan and South Sudan have recently revamped their lobbyist rosters in the U.S. International trade solo practitioner and lobbyist Bart Fisher in Washington, D.C., was hired by Sudan last November, according to records on file under the federal Foreign Agents Registration Act, while South Sudan has retained Esther Sprague.