After the expiry of a UN deadline on settling their differences, and a visit to Juba by US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, Sudan and South Sudan appear to be making progress on oil and humanitarian access.
Tentative steps towards better ties between the two Sudans were marred by the loss of life when a Sudanese driver for the World Food Programme was shot dead in South Kordofan state over the weekend. The WFP said Jamal Al Fadil Farag Allah, married with five children, was killed in an armed attack some 80 kilometres (50 miles) north of Kadugli. He is the first WFP employee to be killed in Sudan.
South Kordofan and Blue Nile states have been the scene of fighting between Sudanese government troops and rebels from the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N).
Khartoum says the SPLM-N is supported by Juba, a claim it denies. Juba accuses Khartoum of often bombing its territory, which Khartoum, in turn, also denies.
A Khartoum official suggested that the SPLM-N was behind the attack on the WFP, but a rebel spokesman said the main road where the shooting happened should have been under government control.
The shooting occurred on the same day that Khartoum agreed to allow humanitarian aid to enter South Kordofan and Blue Nile states.
According to the United Nations, almost half a million people have been displaced by the fighting. The United States and aid groups have warned of the dangers of famine.
Khartoum to maintain "strict supervision"
Sudan has agreed on a limited ceasefire in some rebel-held areas as a first step towards allowing aid into the area, according to Kamal Obeid, head of the Sudanese delegation at the African Union sponsored talks on the Sudan-South Sudan conflict in Addis Ababa.
He gave no details but said aid would be distributed only under strict Sudanese supervision with security forces having the right to search shipments and approve the staff delivering it.
These potential signs of progress on humanitarian aid came after Sudan and South Sudan reached a deal on oil revenues.
The two sides agreed that Juba would pay Khartoum a package amounting to $3 billion (2.4 billion euros) as well as a per barrel fee for South Sudanese crude oil sent through Sudan's infrastructure for export via Port Sudan. Juba says that fee will be $9.48 per barrel.
The Sudanese government has not commented officially on the price, but El Shafie Mohammed El Makki, head of political science at the University of Khartoum said something was better than nothing but added, "I don't think such an amount of money can solve the problems."
US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, who is on a tour of Africa and visited South Sudan on Saturday, praised the "courage of the republic of South Sudan's leadership" in taking the decision on oil. Khartoum had also been offered "a way out of the extreme economic stress it had been experiencing," she added.
Security before oil
Oil has been at the heart of tensions and economic difficulties since South Sudan split from Sudan to become an independent state just over a year ago. Before independence, three quarters of Sudan's oil came from what is now South Sudan. The emergence of the new state meant therefore a substantial drop in oil revenues for Khartoum.
The lost oil amounted to more than 85 percent of Khartoum's export earnings, which the World Bank says reached $7.5 billion in the first of half 2011, the six months leading up to independence. In January, South Sudan shut down its oil production accusing Khartoum of theft.
It was against this background that Hilary Clinton last week called on both sides to reach an urgent compromise. Previously Khartoum has been insisting that security, normally a reference to the fighting between government forces and the SPLM-N, should be resolved before oil revenues are addressed. An announcement about oil, according to Magdi El Gizouli from the Rift Valley Institute, would therefore suggest unspoken movement by South Sudan on Sudanese security concerns. "As long as there is no security arrangement, talk of oil will remain provisional," he said.