South Sudan's President Salva Kiir ordered his forces to withdraw from the town of Heglig on Friday, even though he still believes the oil field is the property of South Sudan.
The Sudan People's Liberation Army -- the military wing of South Sudan's ruling political party -- seized control of Heglig last week, and the area has become the focal point of fresh clashes and increased war rhetoric between the north and south. South Sudan had said that the north was using Heglig as a base to launch attacks, and Sudan is now accusing the south of the same thing.
The battles in Heglig brought condemnation from the United Nations, United States and European Union, and an emergency meeting of the Arab League was called on Thursday to meditate what U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had deemed to be an illegal occupation.
Before Kiir's decision to withdraw from the area, it seemed that Sudan and South Sudan were headed toward another war. Since Sudan's Independence from Britain in 1956, the country has only had about a dozen years of relative peace -- but with violence in Heglig, and, since last summer, conflicts in the Abyei region, South Kordofan and Blue Niles states, Sudan was again teetering on the edge.
Earlier this week, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir said that his country was in a state of war and was ready to reclaim South Sudan.
These people don't understand, and we will give them a final lesson by force, Bashir said of his southern neighbors at a rally Thursday. We will not give them an inch of our country, and whoever extends his hand over Sudan, we will cut it.
Despite the sabre-rattling, it appears that neither side wants to plunge the country back into war.
“In the discussions I have had in both Khartoum and Juba, I can say with confidence that virtually everyone I have talked to has said, 'Look we don't want to go to all-out war with the other. We need to find a way out, U.S. special envoy to Sudan, Princeton Lyman, said Thursday, according to Voice of America
South Sudan became the world's youngest nation when it celebrated its independence last July, one of the final terms of the 2005 treaty that ended the Second Sudanese Civil War.
Both sides claim the border town of Heglig, where about half of Sudan's 115,000 barrel-per-day crude output was produced before the conflict. The oil field is operated by the Greater Nile Petroleum Operating Company, the controlling stake of which is owned by the China National Petroleum Corporation.