Rebel forces loyal to deposed South Sudanese Vice President Riek Machar said they captured crude-producing Unity state as the government evacuated some oil workers and plans a partial shutdown of facilities.
The government in Juba has said it is prepared for talks with “no conditions” attached with former vice president Reik Machar, who is blamed for allegedly planning a coup, which then sparked violence across the country.
Having already taken Bor, the capital of Jonglei state, last week, rebels loyal to Machar have now seized Bentiu, the capital of the major oil-producing state of Unity.
Many oil companies, including Malaysia’s Petronas and China National Petroleum Corporation, have evacuated oil workers from fields in the country following clashes that have left some oil workers dead.
Oil is virtually the only source of foreign revenue open to South Sudan, the world’s newest nation, which took with it three-quarters of the original Sudan’s oil reserves.
Following the uncovering of the alleged coup attempt by Machar, fighting broke out in Juba. The capital is said to be relatively calm now, however.
This weekend the government re-echoed its “readiness (for) dialogue with (Machar) and his group provided there are ‘no conditions’ attached to the talks”.
Machar is believed to be somewhere in Unity state. He has denied any coup plot.