2 August 2017

Sudan: Khartoum And Addis Prospects of the Bilateral Relations

Ethiopian Prime Minister Haile Mariam Desalegn, in a recent three-day state visit, discussed with Sudanese President Omar Bashir and other officials, issues of common interest and the possibility of achieving an integration that realizes the joint aspirations of the two peoples.

In a lecture he delivered during his sojourn in the Friendship Hall that is overlooking the confluence of the Two Niles, Desalign remarked that the Sudanese-Ethiopian relations are now passing through the best ever period of stability and closeness, a period that represents a spring-board for advancement and progress.

This the same tone that has long been recapitulated by Sudanese official with regard to communication with the eastern neighbor, the same pronouncement that prompted the Sudanese Foreign Ministry to declare that the joint summit has discussed the border and water issues, bearing in mind the present disputes over the Ethiopian occupation of the Sudanese Fashagah region and the Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on which the Sudan, Egypt and Ethiopia hold different opinions.

Sudanese President Omar, speaking at a press conference held at the end of the visit by the Ethiopian leader, stressed his country's pledge that Egypt's share of the Nile water will remain as stipulated by the 1959 water agreement and will not be affected by the Renaissance Dam.

The Dam will not cause any adverse impact as the negotiations with Ethiopia showed that the technical procedures of the construction assured of the safety of Dam with the Ethiopian Prime Minister underlining his country would not cause any damage to anyone of the states of the Nile Basin, Bashir added.

Following the three-day visit to Sudan by Desalegn, there still remains the prospect of the bilateral relationship between Khartoum and Addis Ababa. The international relations professor in Sudanese universities and political analyst, Hassan al-Saoory, says the ties between Khartoum and Addis Ababa appear as good as ever. The success of the two governments in transforming the state of confrontation into cooperation may be fruitful, he said.

Saoory made reference to a declaration by the two leaders during Desalign's recent visit that they would take steps for demarcation of the common borderline and resolution of the pending questions, including the dispute over the Fashagah region.

The professor says that, although they have improved, those relations cannot be assumed that they have reached safety. He said the dispute over the Sudan Fashagah, namely the Ethiopian occupation of the region and its negative consequences that reached the point at which the Sudanese inhabitants demanded intervention by the central government for retrieving the Sudanese territory, implying that this dispute could take the two countries to square one.

Observers believe that communication through economy and exchange of interests ease the political confrontations, something which is in the words of the Ethiopian Prime Minister who frequently repeated the phrase: "Our battle is not against any boy... we only fight against poverty", adding that their battle against poverty is not confined within the geographic territories of Ethiopia but stretches to cover all peoples of the region topped by Egypt and Sudan.

In dealing with economics, the question that persistently arises is one of the profits and losses. Many observers opine that the balance of the economic interests is in favor of Ethiopia in its transactions with the Sudan. Recent meetings of the joint ministerial committee approved an economic cooperation matrix and issued a package of recommendations that await implementation. Some individuals concerned with joint investments dreamt of common circulation of the currencies of the two countries.

By the end of the day, it was announced that a branch for Ethiopian Commercial Bank be opened in Khartoum to facilitate remittances.

This was the only thing that was achieved, though its implementation would, as seen by Wajdy Mirghani, Chairman of the joint Sudanese-Ethiopian Economic Committee, rescind many problems.

Yet Mirghani, who speaks for the Sudanese side, revealed that there are more than 800 investors operate in Ethiopia, but he noted that has not benefitted from this sort of communication that would provide a new market.

Similarly, Khartoum has offered a sea outlet for Ethiopia to use Port Sudan on the Red Sea, but Ethiopia largely prefers Djibouti Port after the stretching of a railway line.

However, there are links that may enhance the ties, particularly in connection with the security aspects which cannot be separated from the regional developments and the extent of influence by the Sudan and Ethiopia on those developments, especially the conflict in South Sudan and the feverish search in the region, along with efforts by Khartoum and Addis Ababa, for finding an end to this exacerbating crisis.

The security concerns also include the Sudanese Blue Nile region where Sudanese rebels are active, bearing in mind that Ethiopia has long been a host country to the Sudanese peace negotiations.

In the context of efforts for cementing the ties of cooperation and serving the mutual interests, Ethiopia has reiterated its pledge that the electricity of the Renaissance Dam will illuminate the Sudanese towns and will cut down the cost of Sudanese industries.

But the Sudanese insist that things cannot be alright before putting an end to the Ethiopian occupation of the Sudanese territories east of the city of Gedarif and they believe that the Fashagah issue may revive the discord.

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