Sudan-Egypt row escalates over Red Sea oil bids
KHARTOUM - A row between Sudan and Egypt escalated with Sudanese authorities summoning the Egyptian ambassador to Khartoum to protest Cairo’s “illegal” call for oil and gas exploration bids in the Red Sea area of Halayeb, which is claimed by both countries.
Egypt’s control of the Halayeb triangle, which lies in a mineral-rich border region, has for decades been an issue for Cairo and Khartoum, despite a general improvement in ties since an October summit.
Egypt’s state-owned South Valley Egyptian Petroleum Holding Company has invited bids for ten oil and gas exploration blocks in what it said were Egyptian territorial waters in the Red Sea.
“The Foreign Ministry summoned Egyptian Ambassador Hossam Eissa… to protest against the tenders invited by the Egyptian Oil Ministry for areas under the sovereignty of Sudan,” Sudan’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
“Sudan is asking Egypt to stop all procedures concerning the tenders given the situation about the Halayeb triangle.”
Sudan has regularly protested Egypt’s administration of Halayeb and the Shalatin border region near the Red Sea, saying they are Sudanese sovereign territory since shortly after independence in 1956.
Sudan warned Egypt against its offer of exploration blocks.
Sudanese Minister of State for Oil and Gas Saad el-Deen el-Bushra said the move was “a direct intrusion” into his ministry’s authority to grant exploration licences in the area.
The Foreign Ministry summoned the Egyptian ambassador on March 21 and urged international companies working in the area not to submit bids for the blocks.
“The government of Sudan can take measures to prevent any company from operating in this area,” the ministry warned.
It also called on Cairo to resolve the situation “through peaceful means” to avoid damaging improving ties between the two countries.
Relations between Cairo and Khartoum had turned sour in early 2017 when Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir accused Egypt of supporting rebels in conflict zones, including Darfur in western Sudan.
Sudan in May 2017 banned the import of animal and other agricultural products from Egypt but it lifted the ban in October as ties improved following talks in Khartoum between al-Bashir and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.
Egypt has repeatedly called for stability in Sudan after protests erupted in December against al-Bashir’s three-decade rule.
Demonstrations and deadly clashes erupted after a government decision to triple the price of bread.
Al-Bashir has remained defiant and imposed a nationwide state of emergency on February 22.