Stronger together

Doaa El-Bey , Wednesday 6 Apr 2022

Egypt and Sudan are coordinating closely to resolve shared regional issues.

Stronger together
Stronger together

Stronger bilateral relations and better coordination between Egypt and Sudan will have a positive impact on the security of both states and the region, said a diplomat speaking on condition of anonymity. That is especially true at a time when the Sudanese government must negotiate popular demands to facilitate the transition to a civilian-led democracy.

“In addition, a unified stand towards Ethiopia over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) is needed to break the current stalemate and help the parties reach legally binding agreement on the filling and operation of the dam,” he added.

Such is the context within which high-level visits between officials of the two countries are taking place.

The latest was last week’s summit meeting between President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi and the Chairman of Sudan’s Transitional Sovereign Council Abdel-Fattah Al-Burhan.

The two leaders discussed ways to help Sudan out of its current political crisis without compromising Sudan’s security or regional stability.

A joint statement issued after their meeting emphasised Cairo’s understanding of the delicate situation through which Sudan is passing, and the need for joint work to ensure ongoing global developments do not undermine Sudan’s security and economic stability.

Sudan, for its part, expressed pride in the strength of bilateral rapprochement, and praised Egypt’s efforts to promote joint cooperation and support the safety and stability of Sudan.

The two leaders also addressed the dispute with Ethiopia over GERD. Highlighting the centrality of the water file to the security of their two peoples, they agreed to continue intensive consultations and coordination to reach a fair, equitable and legally-binding agreement on the filling and operation of the dam in a manner that achieves the interests of all parties.

Last month, Osama Askar, the chief-of-staff of the Egyptian Armed Forces, met his Sudanese counterpart Mohamed Othman Al-Hussein in Cairo to discuss military cooperation between the two countries and agreed to fast-track the exchange of expertise between Cairo and Khartoum.

Askar expressed hopes that the coming period would see further cooperation between the two countries within the framework of Cairo and Khartoum’s firm strategic relations, while Al-Hussein highlighted the consensus between Sudan and Egypt on the need to formulate joint strategies promoting the interests of both countries. Al-Hussein was in Egypt to attend the eighth meeting of the Egyptian-Sudanese Military Committee.

Similarly reflecting Egypt’s keenness to maintain Sudanese security, Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri met with UN Special Envoy for Sudan and head of United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission (UNITAM) Volker Perthes whose visit to Cairo coincided with Al-Burhan’s. iand Perthes discussed the latest developments in Sudan, with Egypt’s top diplomat stressing that Sudanese security and stability is indivisible from Egypt’s.

Perthes has begun consultations with Sudanese forces to pave the way for an intra-Sudanese dialogue.

Despite the difficult political situation in Sudan, explained the anonymous diplomat, adopting a unified stand with Egypt on the GERD file has helped strengthen the two countries’ positions towards Ethiopia.

Egypt and Sudan have repeatedly underlined the necessity of a legally-binding agreement with Ethiopia on the filling and operation of GERD, something Ethiopia continued to resist.

When Ethiopia announced in February that it was beginning to operate turbines at the dam, Cairo and Khartoum responded by issuing a joint statement calling on Addis Ababa to actively engage in talks under the auspices of the African Union (AU) to reach a legally-binding deal. Both states described the Ethiopian move as a breach of the Declaration of Principles (DoP).

The DoP was signed in Khartoum in March 2015 at a tripartite summit that included the heads of the three countries.

A decade of tripartite negotiations on the dam ground to a halt in April 2020 after Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia failed to reach an agreement ahead of the second filling of the dam.

Egypt fears continued filling of the dam in the absence of an agreement will reduce the flow of Nile water on which Egypt depends. Sudan is worried Ethiopia’s unilateral actions will endanger its own dams.

*A version of this article appears in print in the 7 April, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.

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