According to a government source Sudan has rejected an official offer from Egypt to apply the terms of the unactivated Four Freedoms Agreement, signed by Egypt and Sudan in 2004, to the contested Halayeb Triangle and an area of equivalent size inside Sudan.
The 2004 agreement would have permitted free movement, residence, work and ownership in both countries, however it was obstructed by Egypt. In recent weeks, according to the official, who spoke to Mada Masr on condition of anonymity, Egypt offered to apply these conditions to the contested Halayeb Triangle and an area of equivalent size in Sudan.
Sudan’s refusal comes amid strained relations between the two countries after the Sudanese government decided to ban the import of agricultural and animal products from Egypt, and redirect any imports from other countries that would otherwise pass through Egypt last Tuesday.
Sudan’s claim of sovereignty over the Egypt-administered Halayeb Triangle, which falls on the border between the two countries, has been an ongoing source of diplomatic tension. Sudan has officially labeled Egypt’s presence in the area a “military occupation.”
Recently the Sudanese foreign minister postponed an official visit to Egypt in response to Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry’s cancellation of a diplomatic visit to Sudan in April and altercations in the contested territory, according to the government official.
Another government source told Mada Masr earlier this month that Sudanese forces had entered the Halayeb Triangle and abducted three Egyptian workers who were installing surveillance devices along the border to monitor smuggling activities. They added that there have been reports of Sudanese fighters in the area.
Sudanese Foreign Minister Ibrahim Ghandour told media outlets on Monday that he had informed Cairo that he was postponing his visit as he was “occupied with internal affairs.” According to Egypt’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson the visit has been postponed until next week.
The government official speculated that a third party is pushing Sudan to challenge Egypt on the Halayeb Triangle, and side with Ethiopia in the ongoing conflict with Egypt over the construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. They believe that “a Gulf country that wants to pester the Egyptian regime” has been paying the bills for Sudan’s legal consultation on the matter.
In March Sudan submitted an official complaint to the United Nations asserting that the Halayeb Triangle is part of its territory, which Egypt objected to on May 4.
Tensions peaked in April, when Sudan accused Egypt of supporting rebels at war with President Omar al-Bashir’s government and of attempting to undermine the Sudanese regime by supporting the extension of sanctions imposed by the UN’s security council. Egypt has denied these accusations.