February 19, 2014 (KHARTOUM) – The Egyptian prime minister, Hazem al-Beblawi, has issued a decree on Tuesday turning the contested Halayeb area into a city that encompasses the villages of Abu-Ramad and Ras-Hedreba.
- An aerial view of Halayeb Triangle on Egypt-Sudan borders (Google Earth)
The decision also separates Halayeb from the Shalateen region as well.
Egypt’s council of ministers spokesperson, Hani Salah, said the decision comes within the framework of the government’s desire to achieve balanced development in all parts of the country.
He told al-Masri al-Youm daily newspaper that the government plans to launch development projects in Halayeb and Shalateen at a cost of $764 million for the benefit of local residents.
Meanwhile, Egypt’s foreign ministry spokesperson, Badr Abdel-Aati, denied the existence of Egyptian-Sudanese integration in Halayeb and Shalateen area, saying that Egypt’s chargé d’affaires in Khartoum, Wail Barakat, issued a statement categorically denying making remarks to this effect.
He added in a telephone call with Cairo-based Sada al-Balad TV that these remarks are not on the negotiating table, claiming that they were fabricated by a Sudanese newspaper.
Barakat also noted there has never been Sudanese-Egyptian integration in Halayeb and Shalateen area, saying that this idea is for both countries and has nothing to do with Halayeb and Shalateen specifically.
He affirmed that Halayeb and Shalateen areas are 100% Egyptian territories.
The Egyptian army seized control of Halayeb region, an area of land measuring 20,580 square km in the border areas of the Red Sea coast, after relations between the two neighbors plummeted due to the 1995’s failed attempt by Islamists allegedly backed by Sudan to assassinate the then Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak in Addis Ababa.
The genesis of the disputes over Halayeb dates back to as early as 1958 after Sudan gained independence from being ruled jointly by Britain and Egypt. The wrangle is a result of a discrepancy in the demarcation of political boundaries set by the Anglo-Egyptian Condominium and the ones set earlier by the British in 1902.
Cairo has routinely dismissed Khartoum’s demands that the issue be resolved through international arbitration.
Since the 1989 coup that brought president Omer Hassan al-Bashir to power, Sudanese officials have avoided raising the issue in public for fears of angering their Egyptian counterparts and to avoid alienating a key regional player.