News Analysis: Diplomatic dialogue steps forward to restrain Egypt-Sudan tension

Source: Xinhua| 2017-06-04 06:19:56|Editor: Mu Xuequan
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by Mahmoud Fouly

CAIRO, June 3 (Xinhua) -- The recent diplomatic talks between Cairo and Khartoum are a step forward to restrain the growing tension between neighboring Egypt and Sudan and maintain the strategic and historical ties between the two countries, said Egyptian and Sudanese experts.

Cairo hosted on Saturday Sudanese Foreign Minister Ibrahim Ghandour who met with his Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shoukry and Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi where they discussed 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, which has 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 African Studies and Research Institute of Cairo University.

He stressed that both countries should be aware that differences are in favor of neither of them amid the strong ties between the two countries at the popular level, "which has been highlighted by the foreign ministers of both countries in their today's joint press conference."

Sudan has recently turned down some Egyptian agricultural and animal exports. A relevant ban has been approved by the Sudanese cabinet to urge the private sector to exclude imports from neighboring 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 UN Security Council," Shabaan told Xinhua.

He said that the visit economically discusses fixing mutual trade and economic cooperation and socially it seeks to enhance cultural and educational cooperation and the facilitation of entry of citizens between both sides.

The disputed border regions of Halayeb and Shalateen, which is currently under Egyptian sovereignty, remain a complicated matter between Cairo and Khartoum, causing a restrained tension between both 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 tension 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 ex-diplomat told Xinhua, 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 disputed border region 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 press 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.

"I believe that despite the media backlash, both sides at the official level are aware of the importance of their ties that can be described as inevitable due to their geographic neighborhood and historical roots," said Shahira Wahib, Technical Secretariat of Water and Environment Council of the Arab League.

Wahib, who told Xinhua that she speaks of her opinion as a Sudanese observer not as an Arab League diplomat, said that diplomatic communication can bring good results in some issues of disagreement but other issues need specialized technical communication to be resolved.

"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 the Sudanese diplomat.