Ethiopia renews call for Sudan to withdraw forces as border row escalates

Relations between Sudan and Ethiopia are increasingly deteriorating over a disputed border area of al-Fashaga.

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The Ethiopian government has once again called on neighbouring Sudan to withdraw its forces from and engage in dialogue for a lasting solution to an escalating border row.

Ethiopia said it is pursuing the border issue patiently and through a mature diplomacy.

“We have handled the situation regarding the border conflict with the utmost patience and civility,” Foreign Affairs ministry spokesman, Dina Mufti, said at a press briefing on Thursday.

“We once again call on Sudan to withdraw from our territories and sit for discussions for a lasting peace, according to existing conflict resolution mechanisms.”

Ambassador Mufti said Sudan is following a wrong and dangerous path and must refrain from its wrongdoings.

“Ethiopia is still asking Sudan to return to the right path,” he said, citing “provocative acts” Sudan engaged in over the last 10 months across the disputed territories which both countries claim.

Disputed area

Relations between Sudan and Ethiopia are increasingly deteriorating over a disputed border area of al-Fashaga.

Tensions along the border flared in December last year, one month after the outbreak of conflict in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region.

Sudan has taken control of most of the land, up to 60 kilometers deep inside Ethiopia, which it alleges had previously been annexed by its neighbour.

Disputes over the agricultural land of al-Fashaga, which falls within Sudan’s international boundaries, coupled with unsettled dispute over Ethiopia’s controversial Nile dam project, hasbestrained relations between the nations.

The tensions escalated last week when Addis Ababa accused Sudan of providing support to Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), a rebel group that is fighting the government and allied forces in northern Ethiopia.

The Ethiopian army said its forces have killed at least 50 infiltrators who crossed borders from Sudan to Ethiopia to attack the country’s massive dam Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) project.

“Some 70 others were wounded in counter offensives carried out in Benshangul-Gumz region, bordering Sudan, where Ethiopia is building the multi-billion mega dam project,” it said.

Sudan denies claims

To support its claim, the Ethiopian army alleged capturing anti-vehicle mines and various kinds of explosives the rebel allied fighters had planned to use to sabotage the project, which has long been a source of tensions between Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt.

In a statement last Friday, Sudanese army spokesman Brigadier Al-Tahir Abu Haja dismissed Ethiopia’s allegation as “baseless accusations”.

“Sudan and its army do not interfere in the internal affairs of neighboring Ethiopia or other countries,” said Abu Haja.

“This [the Ethiopian] statement reflects the harsh reality faced by the Ethiopian regime because of the continuing violations of the rights of the (Ethiopian) people,” he added.

A few weeks ago, Ethiopia filled GERD for a second time despite warnings from the downstream countries of Sudan and Egypt for it not to be filled before a legally binding agreement is reached.

On August 6, Addis Ababa rejected Sudan’s initiative to mediate in the TPLF conflict with the central government, saying Khartoum cannot be trusted with the role while illegally occupying Ethiopian territories.

However, Sudan’s Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, who chairs regional bloc Igad, says his mediation initiative within the bloc’s framework is still in place. Since the conflict in Tigray region broke out last November, more than 60,000 people have fled to Sudan.

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