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Sudanese-Ethiopian committee agrees to complete border demarcation

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A checkpoint in Metema in north-western Ethiopia, next to the border with Sudan. The town is a centre of a booming trade in migrants from Ethiopia and Eritrea. (AP Photo)
March 1, 2019 (KHARTOUM) - The Joint Sudanese-Ethiopian Higher Committee (JSEHC) has agreed to complete the border demarcation between the two countries as soon as possible.

On Thursday, the JSEHC concluded its meeting in Khartoum. The final communiqué was signed by Sudan’s Vice-President Osman Kibir and Ethiopia’s Deputy Prime, Minister, Demeke Mekonnen.

Speaking at a joint press conference following the end of the talks, Kibir praised efforts of the joint technical committee between the two countries, saying the two sides have agreed on all issues under discussion.

He pointed out that meeting stressed the need to activate all joint mechanisms and committees, saying the two sides agreed on the need to complete the demarcation of the joint border.

Sudan’s Vice-President also said the meeting enhanced the already strong ties between the two countries, pointing to the importance of promoting relations among the border regions.

For his part, the Ethiopian Deputy Prime Minister said the meeting would strengthen bilateral relations on all levels.

He pointed out that the joint committees play an important role in promoting bilateral ties, saying the two countries enjoy deep and historical relations.

Mekonnen further said the two sides agreed to activate the rest of the joint political, social and security committees, expressing keenness to implement all agreements reached during the meeting.

Ethiopia and Sudan are engaged more and more in joint security, military and economic cooperation.

In April 2017, the two sides signed a number of joint agreements to promote economic relations and strengthen ties between the two countries.

Also in February 2018, they signed multiple agreements to further boost up cooperation on a range of development activities.

In March 2012, al-Bashir announced his support to the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), saying his government understands the mutual benefits the project could offer Ethiopia and Sudan.

Although Khartoum and Addis Ababa have close ties, the border area between the two countries remains a source of tension and violence between the two sides due to the human trafficking and smuggling to reach Egypt and Libya.

Also, Ethiopian farmers are accused by the Sudanese farmers of occupying vast agricultural land in the Al-Fashqa area of Gedaref State.

The third issue until recently was Ethiopian rebels who sneak over the border coming from Eritrea. Many have been detained and handed over to the Ethiopian authorities.

Last month, there were media reports that Ethiopia’s Foreign Minister, Workneh Gebeyehu, has warned that Sudan’s failure to curb continued arms smuggling into Ethiopia through its border may lead to cutting diplomatic relations.

However, the Ethiopian government has dismissed these reports as unfounded saying the Foreign Minister’s remarks were taken out of context.

In October 2017, the security committee between Sudan’s Gedaref state and Ethiopia’s Amhara region decided to recommend to the leadership of the two countries to deploy a joint force along the border.

Last August, the Sudanese and Ethiopian armies signed an agreement to withdraw troops from both sides of the border and to deploy joint forces to combat "terrorism", human trafficking and to eliminate any potential security tensions. But it was not clear if effective steps have been taken towards its deployment.

It is noteworthy that the current borders between Sudan and Ethiopia were drawn by the British and Italian colonisers in 1908. The two governments have agreed in the past to redraw the borders and to promote joint projects between people from both sides for the benefit of local populations.

The JSEHC announced in December 2013 that it reached an agreement to end disputes between farmers from two sides of the border over the ownership of agricultural land.

In November 2014, the former Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn and President al-Bashir instructed their Foreign Ministers to fix a date for resuming the border demarcation. The operation had stopped following the death of Ethiopia’s former premier, Meles Zenawi.

(ST)

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