Will Egypt-Sudan relations be restored?
Signs suggesting Egyptian-Sudanese relations are taking a turn for the better were exemplified by Thursday’s meeting between the two country’s foreign ministers.
This comes as Egyptian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sameh Shoukry, resumed a postponed joint consultation committee yesterday in Sudan’s capital Khartoum.
The talks were due to take place on April 9, but adverse weather conditions were cited by Egypt’s foreign ministry. Analysts say there are indications to prove otherwise; citing a mix of both long drawn and more recent events.
Egypt and Sudan said on Thursday they will not harbour or support opposition groups fighting their respective governments. Other topics for discussion include strengthening bilateral trade, lifting a ban on Egyptian agricultural goods and recent Sudanese escalation near disputed borders.
Relations have soured since July 2013, when the country's first democratically elected president, Mohamed Morsi, was overthrown by a military coup led by the current president, Sisi.
Egyptian media have accused Khartoum of offering refuge to members of the Muslim Brotherhood movement, which was declared a "terrorist group" by Cairo following the ouster of Islamist president Morsi. Sudanese president, Omar al-Bashir has also accused Egyptian intelligence services of supporting Sudanese opposition figures fighting his troops.
|Egyptian media have accused Khartoum of offering refuge to members of the Muslim Brotherhood movement, which was declared a "terrorist group" by Cairo
Khalil Charles, a political commentator on Sudanese affairs, says that Sudan is signalling a more forceful diplomacy with Egypt, citing Sudan’s Foreign Minister, Ibrahim Ghandour’s public request to explain why Egypt supported the maintenance of a UN arms embargo and sanctions on Sudan at a United Nations Security consultation meeting on April 7.
A spokesperson from Egypt’s foreign ministry denied the claim of a less favourable stance towards Sudan.
Charles also cites media from the region that denote a type of patronage from Saudi Arabia towards Sudan that could potentially harden the country against Egypt.
The last month has also seen media sparring matches in both Egypt and Sudan after Sudan’s Media Minister was reported saying his country’s civilisation is "older than" that of Egypt.
Far long standing issues relate to disputes over the Halayeb Triangle borders.
The Halayeb Triangle region comprises of three cities: Halayeb, Abu Ramad and Shalateen. The area is administered by Egypt but has been central to the region's tension for decades, from spats of the country's right of access and the management of the area's natural resources.
In 2004, Egypt and Sudan signed the Four Freedoms Agreement, which should allow Egyptians and Sudanese to both freely move across the border, and live, work or own property in either country without a permit.
|In 2004, Egypt and Sudan signed the Four Freedoms Agreement, which should allow Egyptians and Sudanese to both freely move across the border, and live, work or own property in either country without a permit
But last week, Sudan moved towards implementing entry visas for Egyptian travellers, settling scores with Egypt’s similar imposition on Sudanese travellers.
This could be problematic at a time where both countries are facing economic depressions; particularly for Egypt which is facing a tourism crisis.
Sudan's decision to place a restriction on Egyptian men aged from 18 to 50 was aimed at preventing "terrorists" from infiltrating the country. The restriction does not apply to Egyptian women.
Cairene shopkeeper, Tamer Mahmoud, whose business is based in the bustling Khan El Khalili market says, "We find it strange, why are we the only ones lacking (tourism)? What happened here (terrorist acts) also happened in France, Germany, Turkey and even the United States, there were bombs there, but tourists never stopped going there."
It is yet to be seen how negotiations between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia will fare relating to the Renaissance Dam with Egypt opposing the project due to concerns over the dam’s impact on the quality of the Nile downstream. Sudan and Ethiopia think otherwise.
Both Egypt and Sudan have a long standing history; with both countries once creating a unified polity mid-20th century. Some Egyptian politicians believe the way forward is to reinstate the 1982 Nile Valley parliament which administered diplomatic ties to help ease diplomatic ties.
But political and security concerns for either country have changed significantly. A recognition of convergence and divergence in this matter is key to helping ease tensions.
Adama Munu is a broadcast journalist and is interested in Afro-Arab relations. She is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Middle East politics at Birkbeck College.
Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.