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Dialogue stepped up to ease Egypt, Sudan tension

China Daily | Updated: 2017-06-05 07:39

Meetings come after Cairo was accused of providing support to rebels

CAIRO, Egypt - Talks between Egypt and Sudan have been welcomed as a step forward in easing the growing tension between countries that will help maintain the strategic and historical ties.

On Saturday, Cairo hosted Sudanese Foreign Minister Ibrahim Ghandour for discussions with his Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shoukry and Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi on methods of enhancing cooperation between the two countries.

The meetings came more than a week after Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir accused Egypt of providing military support to the armed rebels in the chaotic region of Darfur in western Sudan.

The claims have been strongly dismissed by the Egyptian president.

"The Sudanese foreign minister's visit comes as a step to repair relations between Cairo and Khartoum and contain their disagreements," said Maher Shabaan, professor at the African Studies and Research Institute of Cairo University.

Shabaan stressed that both countries should be aware that differences will help neither country and risk harming the strong ties they have developed, "which has been highlighted by the foreign ministers of both countries in their today's joint news conference."

Sudan has recently turned down Egyptian agricultural and animal exports and a ban has been approved by the Sudanese cabinet to urge the private sector to exclude imports from Egypt.

"The visit has three dimensions: political, economic and social. Politically, it addresses issues of disagreement, like Sudan's claims of Egypt's support of armed rebels in Darfur, their positions on Ethiopia's giant dam and Egypt's support for Sudan at the United Nations Security Council," Shabaan said.

The disputed border regions of Halayeb and Shalateen, which is currently under Egyptian sovereignty, remain a complicated matter between Cairo and Khartoum and have caused tension between the neighbors.

Mohamed al-Shazli, former Egyptian ambassador to Khartoum, welcomed the Sudanese foreign minister's visit to Cairo as a positive step, yet he said the visit alone might not be enough to resolve the ongoing issues without further communication at a higher level, referring to the heads of the two states.

"The visit is an attempt to return the bilateral relations to their natural course, which is undoubtedly welcomed," the former diplomat said, stressing that "the ball is in Sudan's court."

He argued that Egypt remained careful not to be dragged into political or diplomatic escalation despite Sudanese accusations of Egyptian conspiracy, rejection of Egyptian exports, raising the issues of the disputed border regions and limiting Sudan's entry visas to Egyptians.

"Egypt always asserts its friendly and historical relations with Sudan and the Sudanese people and avoids any kind of escalation," Shazli added.

During a news conference following Ghandour's meetings with Sisi and Shoukry, the Sudanese foreign minister urged the media to stick to facts and not to exaggerate disagreement between the two countries.

"Despite the tension, the Egyptian foreign minister's invitation to his Sudanese counterpart to visit Cairo and the quick response of the latter show that there is real keenness of both sides to maintain their ties," said Shahira Wahib of the Technical Secretariat of Water and Environment Council of the Arab League.


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