Egypt, Sudan hold talks to end diplomatic standoff

Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir, left, and his counterpart Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi. (AFP)
Updated 08 February 2018

Egypt, Sudan hold talks to end diplomatic standoff

CAIRO: Senior government officials from Egypt and Sudan are due to meet in Cairo today (Thursday) as they seek to roll back months of escalating diplomatic tensions between the two countries.
The bilateral talks are the first public sign that the north African neighbors are keen to put an end to the insults and accusations they have been trading in the latest flare-up of a dispute dating back decades.
Both nations are expected to send their foreign ministers and heads of intelligence to the meeting, as part of an agreement struck by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi and the Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir on the sidelines of the African Union summit in Ethiopia last month.
The talks are being billed as a rare chance to promote solidarity and cooperation between two nations that have long disagreed over ideological and territorial issues, including the status of an 8,000 sq. mile piece of land known as the Hala’ib Triangle.
Situated on Egypt’s southern border and a relic of territorial divisions leftover from the British Empire, the Triangle is claimed by both Egypt and Sudan. Egypt deployed troops there in the 1990s as the dispute came close to all-out war. At the same time, Sudan harbored Egyptian hard-liners including the future leader of Al-Qaeda, Ayman Al-Zawahiri, who were determined to overthrow the government in Cairo.
After several years of relative quiet, tensions again began to rise in 2016, when Egypt agreed to hand over the Red Sea islands of Tiran and Sanafir to its ally Saudi Arabia, raising concerns in Sudan that Cairo was strengthening its hand in the region.
While today’s discussions are unlikely to address the root causes of this decades-old animosity, they are expected to go some way towards reducing the mutual hostility that has threatened to boil over in recent weeks.
On Jan. 4, Sudan recalled its ambassador to Cairo, Abdul Mahmoud Abdul Haleem, and the deteriorating relations threatened to have serious implications for the wider region.
Just days earlier Egypt’s pro-government press had already warned that Sudan was “playing with fire” by strengthening its ties with Qatar and Turkey. The warning came as Ankara signed a military cooperation deal with Khartoum and agreed to carry out a series of reconstruction projects in Sudan worth $650 million. These included rebuilding the port city of Suakin on Sudan’s Red Sea coast, in a move Turkey said would increase tourism to Sudan and establish a transit point for Muslim pilgrims traveling to Makkah.
Today’s talks will address Egyptian concerns that Turkey actually plans to use Suakin as a military base to gain a vital strategic foothold in the region. The Egyptian foreign minister Sameh Shoukry and Egypt’s acting head of intelligence, Abbas Kamel, are due to broach this issue with their Sudanese counterparts Ibrahim Ghandour and Mohammad Atta.
An Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesman said they “will discuss bilateral relations and coordination on a number of regional issues of common interest.”
As well as the Hala’ib Triangle and Suakin, Cairo and Khartoum also disagree over the fate of a multibillion-dollar dam Ethiopia is building on its share of the Nile. Sudan supports the project because it will benefit from the electricity and irrigation it provides, but Egypt fears the dam will cut its own water supplies.

Macron slams Turkey’s aggression in Syria as ‘madness’, bewails NATO inaction

Updated 16 min 57 sec ago

Macron slams Turkey’s aggression in Syria as ‘madness’, bewails NATO inaction

  • EU Council President Donald Tusk said the halt of Turkish hostilities as demanded by the US is not a genuine cease-fire
  • He calls on Ankara to immediately stop military operations,

BRUSSELS/ANKARA: Macron critizes Turkey's aggression in Syria as "madness', bewails NATO inaction

France’s President Emmanuel Macron has bemoaned Turkey’s offensive into northern Syria as “madness” and decried NATO’s inability to react to the assault as a “serious mistake.”

“It weakens our credibility in finding partners on the ground who will be by our side and who think they will be protected in the long term. So that raises questions about how NATO functions.”

EU Council President Donald Tusk said the halt of Turkish hostilities is not a genuine cease-fire and called on Ankara to immediately stop military operations in Syria.

Dareen Khalifa, a senior Syria analyst at the International Crisis Group, said the cease-fire had unclear goals. 

There was no mention of the scope of the area that would be under Turkish control and, despite US Vice President Mike Pence referring to a 20-mile zone, the length of the zone remains ambiguous, she said.

Selim Sazak, a doctoral researcher at Brown University, believed the agreement would be implemented and the YPG would withdraw.

“The agency of the YPG is fairly limited. If the deal collapses because of the YPG, it’s actually all the better for Ankara,” he told Arab News. “What Ankara originally wanted was to take all of the belt into its control and eliminate as many of the YPG forces as possible. Instead, the YPG is withdrawing with a portion of its forces and its territory intact. Had the deal collapsed because of the YPG, Ankara would have reason to push forward, this time with much more legitimacy.”