Sudan-Ethiopia mediation gathers steam
KHARTOUM – Leaders of Sudan and Ethiopia will separately travel to Juba next week to start a mediation bid by the South Sudanese government to defuse a border dispute.
Senior presidential aide Tut Gatluak, who has been travelling between Khartoum and Addis Ababa in recent weeks for talks with their leaders on the dispute, announced the visits on Wednesday.
While in Juba, Sudan’s head of state Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed will meet South Sudanese President Salva Kiir.
Depending on the outcome of these talks, a three-way summit could be held later in Juba, Gatluak said.
Sudan Wednesday recalled its ambassador to Ethiopia, the foreign ministry said, as tensions between the two countries are running high over a border region and Addis Ababa’s controversial Blue Nile dam.
“Sudan has recalled its ambassador to Addis Ababa for consultations over Sudanese-Ethiopian relations,” foreign ministry spokesman Mansour Boulad said.
He said the envoy would return to his post after the “completion of consultations”, without elaborating on the nature of the discussions.
Khartoum’s move comes amid rising tensions with Addis Ababa over the Al-Fashaqa border region, where Ethiopian farmers cultivate fertile land claimed by Sudan.
The two neighbouring countries have been trading accusations of violence in the area and territorial violations.
On Sunday, Khartoum claimed that Ethiopia had allowed its troops to enter Sudanese territory in an act of “aggression” and “regrettable escalation.”
Last month, Ethiopia alleged that Sudanese forces were pushing further into the border region.
Khartoum has since last month banned aircraft from flying over the Al-Fashaqa area after alleging that an Ethiopian military aircraft entered its airspace, a claim denied by Addis Ababa.
Al-Fashaqa, which has seen sporadic clashes over the years, borders Ethiopia’s troubled Tigray region, where deadly conflict erupted in November between Ethiopia’s federal and Tigray’s regional forces.
The fighting sent some 60,000 Ethiopian refugees fleeing into Sudan.
The tensions come at a delicate time between the two countries, which along with Egypt have been locked in inconclusive talks over the massive Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on the Blue Nile River.
This month, Sudan warned Ethiopia against going ahead with the second phase of fil
ling the mega dam, saying it would pose a “direct threat to Sudanese national security.”
Ethiopia, which says it has already reached its first-year target for filling the dam’s reservoir, has recently signalled it would proceed with the filling regardless of whether or not a deal was struck.
Khartoum hopes the dam will regulate annual flooding, but fears its own dams, including the Roseires and Merowe, will be harmed if no agreement is reached.