March 17, 2014 (KHARTOUM) – The head of the Egyptian border guard Major General Ahmed Ibrahim arrived in the Sudanese capital of Khartoum on Monday in a visit lasting several days for discussions on the deployment of joint forces to the borders between the two countries.
The spokesman of Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) Colonel Khaled Saad al-Sawarmi said a joint committee comprised of the two sides was formed and began its work on Monday by holding its first formal meeting.
Al-Sawarmi said the results of the meetings will be disclosed at a later date .
The Sudanese Defense minister Abdul Rahim Mohammed Hussein said last month following a visit to Cairo where he met with his Egyptian counterpart Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, that the goal of deploying joint border units is to prevent smuggling and human trafficking.
The Egyptian-Sudanese border is known to be a smuggling hotspot, and was also recently highlighted in a report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) as a human trafficking route.
Observers say that the inauguration of border crossings and setting up the joint force is held up by disagreements over the Halayeb region which both countries claim.
The Egyptian army seized control of the contested 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.
In a related issue, the Sudanese minister of Transport Ahmed Babiker Nahar announced that all border crossings with Egypt will soon be opened to allow for the flow of traffic and trade facilitation.
Nahar who participated in the 18th session of the International Conference for Road Transport and Logistics in Cairo said he discussed with Egyptian officials all transport link issues between the two countries and agreed to remove all obstacles.
The two sides underscored the importance of developing and strengthening relations between the two peoples through trade and providing river and ground transportation.