Sudan’s hostility toward Egypt, which lasted more than 20 years, has finally ended. During these years, Cairo and Khartoum were estranged and differences dominated their relations, with each capital being an axis against the other.
The visit of Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan, the head of Sudan’s ruling interim military council, to Cairo is an important political development toward positive arrangements that will restore the desired regional equation. Sudan under Omar Al-Bashir was aligned with Qatar, Iran and Libya’s militias, although it took part in the war in Yemen under arrangements that secured Khartoum and Bashir an additional regional role. As for Egypt, Bashir’s rule witnessed the worst relations between the two countries since independence. Bashir and the “Islamic nationalist” Muslim Brotherhood movement made Khartoum a rival to Damascus as the capital of extremist organizations, and Cairo was suspicious of Sudan’s role in the terrorist attacks that hit Egypt in multiple waves.
The removal of Bashir thanks to an overwhelming popular desire has changed the regional equation. Al-Burhan’s visit to Cairo reinforced the expectations of changing the removed president’s policy and it was preceded by many meaningful signs, including the refusal to receive the foreign minister of Qatar and receive the Bahraini foreign minister instead; and, more importantly, Al-Burhan's own statement that Sudan will not adopt hostile policies toward its neighbors.
The steps taken by Sudan’s ruling interim military council seem to indicate that it wants to get rid of Bashir’s political legacy and put an end to its intense animosity. These steps include international and national reconciliations, the most recent of which was the return of Yasir Arman, who was accused of serious charges when he decided to run for president.
The steps taken by the head of Sudan’s ruling interim military council seem to indicate that it wants to get rid of Bashir’s political legacy
The arrangements of Sudan’s internal affairs may take longer due to the difficult legacy of the previous regime, as well as the multiplicity of forces and different orientations. The external affairs seem to have been determined by the Sudanese leadership through several messages, most notably Al-Burhan’s visit to Cairo and his statements that have ended two decades of bad relations between the two neighbors, which were reflected in the poor relationships on the border, water, security and political files. In addition, the visit of Al-Burhan’s deputy, Gen. Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, to Jeddah has stressed the new policy of Sudan and the continuation of its membership of the military alliance in Yemen.
Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Sudan are the mainstays of the Red Sea security system. Attempts were made to establish the system last year but the main obstacle to its implementation was the lack of confidence in the Bashir regime, which had already concluded a hostile agreement granting the island of Suakin to Turkey as a military base. A Turkish military presence in the waters of the Red Sea has no justification whatsoever, unless it is directed against Egypt and Saudi Arabia. With the removal of Bashir, it seems that Turkey will not be able to harness the island as a military base against the Red Sea states. Among the first steps announced early after the fall of Bashir’s regime was a review of the administration of ports that Bashir gave to hostile regional governments. These ports were believed to have been used for suspicious non-civilian purposes.
The interests of Sudan as a large country have come from the framework laid down by the former regime, which was based primarily on the policies of the extremist Muslim Brotherhood. Moreover, no one expects Sudan to engage in another cycle of chaos. The ultimate goal is for Sudan to devote itself to internal development and benefit from its relations with its neighbors, as the interim military council has done since the middle of last month, with the support of Saudi Arabia and the UAE, to stabilize the Sudanese pound and fuel prices. It is in the interests of Sudan for the Red Sea to be a region free of war and enmity, including Somalia and Yemen.
- Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is a veteran columnist. He is the former general manager of Al Arabiya news channel, and former editor in chief of Asharq Al-Awsat.Twitter: @aalrashed