Egyptian foreign minister in Sudan to begin ‘new’ ties

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Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry arrived in Khartoum Monday, officials said, to begin what Cairo hailed as a “new start” in relations as Sudan embarks on a transition to civilian rule.

Egypt was a steadfast ally of Sudanese military generals who seized power after the army ousted long-time leader Omar al-Bashir in April following months of nationwide protests against his autocratic rule.

But previously ties between the neighbors had often been strained over the years due to trade and border disputes, although efforts have been taken by both to address the concerns.

Shoukry was due to hold talks with officials including new Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and Sudan’s first female foreign affairs minister, Asma Mohamed Abdalla.

A meeting with General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the head of a joint civilian-military sovereign council that is overseeing Sudan’s transition, was also planned.

“His visit is very important because it establishes a new start in Sudanese and Egyptian relations,” the Egyptian foreign ministry said in a statement.

“The visit also shows Egypt’s support for Sudan and to its people in achieving their demands.”

Relations between Cairo and Khartoum had deteriorated in early 2017, when Bashir accused Egypt of supporting rebels in conflict zones, including Darfur in western Sudan.

Sudan in May 2017 banned the import of animal and other agricultural products from its northern neighbor.

But for years the main bone of contention between the two countries has been Egypt’s control of the Halayeb triangle, which lies in a mineral-rich border region.

During Bashir’s rule, Sudan regularly protested at Egypt’s administration of Halayeb and the Shalatin border region near the Red Sea, saying they are part of its sovereign territory since shortly after independence in 1956.

Ties between the neighbors improved after Sudan lifted the ban on Egyptian products in October 2017 following talks in Khartoum between Bashir and his Egyptian counterpart Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

Sisi and other Egyptian officials had regularly called for stability in Sudan after protests erupted against Bashir in December.