February 20, 2014 (KHARTOUM) – The Cairo-based al-Masri al-Youm newspaper quoted diplomatic sources as saying that the Sudanese foreign minister Ali Karti will travel to Cairo in early March after the postponement of an earlier visit scheduled for this month drew speculations about strains in relations.
- Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy (R) stands next to his Sudanese counterpart Ali Karti as they address the press in Khartoum on August 19, 2013 (ASHRAF SHAZLY/AFP/Getty Images)
The two countries are at odds over the construction of the Grand Renaissance dam in Ethiopia along the Blue Nile which Egypt says will adversely impact its historical rights in the Nile waters and is illegal without their consent in accordance with the 1929 (Colonial era accord between Egypt and Great Britain) and 1959 (Bilateral pact between Egypt and Sudan) Nile water treaties.
Ethiopia is the source of around 85% of the Nile’s water, mainly through rainfall in its highlands. Over 90% of Egyptians rely on water from the Nile’s flows which raised Cairo’s fears that the $4.6 billion hydropower plant will diminish its share of the river’s water.
But last June, a panel of international experts who were tasked by the three countries to study the impacts of the Ethiopian dam on lower riparian countries, including Sudan and Egypt, found that the dam project will not cause significant harm to either country.
Cairo remains unconvinced and has sought further studies and consultation with Khartoum and Addis Ababa.
Sudan angered its Egyptian neighbor to the north by accepting the final findings and offering to send experts and technicians to help in the dam’s construction, a move welcomed by Ethiopia.
This week Karti further highlighted the rift with Egypt on the issue saying that Cairo’s differences with Ethiopia will not be resolved by screaming over the media and looking down on others, stressing that Sudan will continue its efforts to bridge the gap between the two countries.
"The position of Sudan is clear and we have already called on Egyptian officials to take advantage of the central role that Sudan could play regarding the crisis, but the arrogance of the previous government did not allow them to accept this idea" he said.
Karti also denied that Sudan is taking sides because of the joint interests it has with both nations.
Another source of tension emerged this week after the Egyptian cabinet decided to turn the contested Halayeb area into a city.
The area, which is also claimed by Sudan, has been in dispute since 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.