Sudan's Sovereign Council chief Abdel-Fattah Al-Burhan said his country is not planning to go to war with Ethiopia over the ongoing border tensions but affirmed Sudan is ready to defend its lands.
In an interview with Al-Arabiya satellite news channel late on Friday, Al-Burhan described neighbouring Ethiopia and Ethiopians as a “friendly country and people that Sudan has brotherly relations with.”
Tensions rose between Sudan and Ethiopia over the ownership of the fertile Al-Fashqa region that lies within the Sudanese borders and is inhabited by Ethiopian and Sudanese farmers.
Sudan has deployed troops in Al-Fashqa in recent months, leading Ethiopia to accuse Sudan of having “invaded a land that is part of Ethiopia's territory.”
“All we have done is a redeployment within our territories,” Al-Burhan said. “We did not fight Ethiopia and will not do so because we have no disputes with Ethiopia requiring a war.”
The Sudanese official added that “hostility towards Ethiopia has never been in our vocabulary. However, it is Ethiopia that claims it has lands inside Sudan.”
Al-Burhan said Sudan is not planning to launch an attack against any neighbouring or regional country, but it is ready to defend its territories.
However, he warned that Ethiopia's statements on Al-Fashqa dispute are “regretable and concerning,” and fuel the probability of war and tussle.
“There is great hostility from the Ethiopian side, claiming that Sudan occupied Ethiopian lands and robbed Ethiopian citizens of their property, and this is not true,” Al-Burhan said.
“These lands are Sudanese, and Ethiopia knows that it has launched systematic and repeated attacks against Sudanese farmers since 1996 until it was able to place Ethiopian citizens and forces on a large part of the Sudanese territory,” Al-Burhan added.
Al-Burhan called on Ethiopia to pull back its forces and military camps in Sudan, saying that Sudan is ready to engage in negotiations and discuss the need for coordination on the border issue.
On possible foreign intervention to resolve the border crisis, Al-Burhan said Sudan “does not object to the mediation of any party to stop the predictable war that the Ethiopian side calls for.”
Addressing the Egyptian and Sudanese dispute with Ethiopia over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), Al-Burhan affirmed Sudan’s adherence to its call for a written legally binding agreement on the filling and operation of the dam.
He underscored the failure of the talks under the auspices of the African Union (AU) following decade-long talks to reach a consensus among the three countries.
Sudan has recently proposed that an international quartet of the United Nations, United States, AU, and European Union mediate in the stalled GERD talks, a step that Ethiopia has to date rejected.
A week after the latest AU-sponsored talks between the three countries collapsed in DR Congo’s capital of Kinshasa earlier this month, Sudan’s Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok on Tuesday called for a tripartite summit with his Egyptian and Ethiopian counterparts within 10 days.
During the interview, Al-Burhan said Hamdok’s invitation is in line with the steps stipulated in the Declaration of Principles signed by Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia in 2015 in case negotiations faltered.
Ethiopia plans to move ahead with the second filling of the dam in July despite the objections of Egypt and Sudan over the move in the absence of a legally binding deal.
Egypt on 13 April sent a letter to the UN Security Council, calling on the international community to intervene in the GERD dispute by persuading Ethiopia against taking any unilateral action.