Alwaght- The diplomatic row between Sudan and Egypt has taken a turn to the worse after Sudan's cabinet approved a ban on importing agricultural and livestock products from Egypt.
Sudan’s cabinet on Tuesday urged the private sector to import products directly from countries of origin, bypassing Egypt. A reason for the move was not publicized. Ahmed Abu Zeid, the spokesman for Egypt's foreign ministry, said Cairo was told the decision was due to "a technical procedure". Sudan banned all Egyptian agricultural goods in March. This decision came after Sudanese foreign minister, Ibrahim Ghandour, on Sunday cancelled a trip to Egypt with sources saying the trip was postponed for a week.
“We told our brothers in Egypt about the postponement of the visit due to internal issues and it would take place later,” Foreign Minister Ibrahim Ghandour said in a statement on Sunday ahead of the May 31 trip. The trip to the North African nation was meant to ease tensions between the neighboring states. “The purpose of the visit was to convene meetings of the joint Sudanese-Egyptian political consultations committee and its agenda has been agreed already,” the statement said.
Supporting opposition, rebel groups
Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir last Tuesday accused Egypt of arming rebel groups in the restive Darfur region.
Speaking to top army brass, Bashir said Sudanese forces have captured Egyptian weapons during clashes with rebels in the East Darfur state. Egypt's President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi rejected the charge. Meanwhile, Egyptian media accused Khartoum of offering refuge to members of Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood movement, which was declared a "terrorist group" by Sisi's government.
Shortly afterward, Sudan’s Defence minister accused Egypt’s military of “provoking” the Sudanese army in the disputed Halaib Triangle area, located on the border between the two countries. Earlier this year, the Sudanese president stated "The Halayeb-Shalateen Triangle is a Sudanese area, but we are not going to war for it - it will be reclaimed through negotiations."
Before assuming the Egyptian presidency, Sisi said "The Halayeb-Shalateen Triangle is part of Egyptian territory. We urge Sudan not to start a conflict with Egypt."
Journalists have not been spared in the ongoing Khartoum-Cairo diplomatic spat. Egyptian authorities last week refused the entry of and deported Sudanese journalists Iman Kamal al-Din and Al-Tahir Satti. According to the Egypt Independent, Din was deported for writing an article alleging Egypt had built a military base in Eritrea.
Sudan this week hit back. Its foreign minister, Ibrahim Ghandour, stated that the entry of Egyptian citizens would from now on be "dealt with at consular level". The dispute is a further blow to an already watered-down 2004 free-movement deal and adds to several other rows.
Ethiopia’s Renaissance Dam
One of the major reasons for the Egypt, Sudan diplomatic row is the building of the Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, or GERD, which is more than 70 percent complete and which will eventually produce 6,000 megawatts of electricity according to Ethiopia. Egypt is concerned that the dam will interfere with the flow of the Nile waters, which would affect the livelihood of most of its 80 million citizens.
Egypt is infuriated by Sudan's backing of Ethiopia, after President Bashir publicly announced his support for his Ethiopian counterpart while saying during a meeting on bilateral relations on 4 April that Sudanese and Ethiopian security were tightly intertwined. Egypt fears that closer relations between Ethiopia and Sudan will likely mean that progress in the GERD will be in their favor rather than Egypt's.
The reported construction of an Egyptian military base in Eritrea, a country neighboring Ethiopia and Sudan, is meant to act as warning to Addis Ababa and Khartoum that Cairo is ready to use all means necessary to defend its interests. The Eritrean President, Isaias Afeworki has meanwhile downplayed reports alleging his country’s deepened ties with Egypt are intended to sabotage the construction of Ethiopia’s massive hydro-power dam project.