Thursday,20 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1356, (10 - 16 August 2017)
Thursday,20 September, 2018
Issue 1356, (10 - 16 August 2017)

Ahram Weekly

Enhancing relations

Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri’s visit to Sudan last week aimed to consolidate bilateral ties, writes Doaa El-Bey


Shoukri and Ghandour during their press conference last week
Shoukri and Ghandour during their press conference last week

During a meeting on the sidelines of the African Union Summit in Ethiopia in January President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi and his Sudanese counterpart Omar Al-Bashir agreed to “bolster stability and achieve development and prosperity for both countries”, according to a joint statement issued at the time.

Three meetings of the Political Consultation Committee, a sub-committee of the Egyptian-Sudanese high committee headed by Shoukri and his Sudanese counterpart Ibrahim Al-Ghandour, have been held since January.

“Regular meetings between Sudanese and Egyptian officials aim to create a framework for the relation and a mechanism for consultation, ” Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ahmed Abu Zeid told a press conference on 2 August.

It is likely to be a difficult task, says Helmi Shaarawi, former director of the Arab African Research Centre. “Differences over Halayeb and Shalateen, ignoring the impacts of the Renaissance Dam and allowing the media to criticise Egypt while banning it from criticising any other country can all be ascribed to a failure to assess the extent of existing problems, or else a tendency to gauge them only according to narrow interests.”

During last week’s third meeting between Shoukri and Al-Ghandour the two officials discussed ways to improve bilateral relations and addressed regional problems.

The meetings pave the way for a presidential summit in October 2018, Abu Zeid said in a statement issued after Shoukri and Al-Ghandour’s latest round of talks.

“They discussed trade, economic ties, security, efforts to combat terrorism and ways to halt media escalation between the two states,” Abu Zeid said.

But it was the Renaissance Dam that topped the agenda of the most recent meeting.

According to the statement, Shoukri stressed the importance of the tripartite technical committee reconvening as soon as possible to guarantee that studies on the impact of the dam are finalised.

During his visit Shoukri met with Sudanese Vice President Bakri Hassan Saleh who also stressed the importance of convening regular meetings.

The two ministers last met in June in Cairo when discussions centred on the economic, political, social and cultural aspects of bilateral ties. Shoukri described that meeting as “candid and transparent”.

During his visit to Cairo, Al-Ghandour called on the media to play a more positive role in preserving ties between Cairo and Khartoum.

Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir has accused the Egyptian media of aggravating tensions between the two countries.

The first meeting of the Political Consultation Committee was held in Sudan in April. It discussed relations between the two countries as well as regional and international issues, including Syria, Libya, Yemen and South Sudan.
Differences between Khartoum and Cairo have escalated amid a furious exchange of accusations. Al-Bashir says Egypt is supporting Sudanese opposition groups while the Egyptian media accuses Khartoum of offering a safe haven to members of the Muslim Brotherhood.

The disputed Halayeb-Shalateen triangle and Khartoum’s decision to back Ethiopia’s construction of the Renaissance Dam have compounded the already strained  relations.

“The Halayeb-Shalateen triangle is Sudanese but we are not going to go to war over it, it will be reclaimed through negotiations,” Al-Bashir said earlier this year.

In April, following a campaign in the Egyptian media claiming Sudan was exporting terrorists to Egypt, Khartoum demanded Egyptian men between the ages of 18 and 49 travelling to Sudan first acquire a visa. Egypt has imposed a similar visa requirement on Sudanese nationals. Cairo was also annoyed by Khartoum’s March decision to ban imports of Egyptian agricultural products.

In 2004, Egypt and Sudan signed the Four Freedoms Agreement under which nationals of the two countries can move freely across the border and have the right to reside, work and own property in either country. It has never been implemented.

Cairo’s concerns about the impact of Ethiopia’s Renaissance Dam on Egypt’s share of Nile water have been regularly downplayed by Khartoum, though in a TV interview in December 2015 Al-Bashir did say the dam would require the cooperation of all parties to “ensure its success”.

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