Has Egypt made any concessions in the Halayeb and Shalateen dossier to satisfy Sudan?
CAIRO – The head of the Sudanese Sovereignty Council, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, told a press conference on April 9: “Sudan has a good understanding with Egypt on the issue of Halayeb and Shalateen. “
Burhan’s statement follows the Sudanese Ministry of Energy and Petroleum’s announcement on March 21 to update the map of oil blocks in Sudan for global investment with the aim of attracting investors and create opportunities for investment in oil. and gas field. The ministry identified 26 blocks, including the block known as the 16th district of Halayeb and Shalateen, without any objection from Egypt.
Mohammad Abdul Ghani Awad, head of the promotion department of the General Administration of Petroleum Exploration and Production in Sudan, said in a press release following the ministry’s announcement on March 21 that the process of division and mapping had been carried out scientifically according to the cadastral systems and mapping work.
Sudan’s announcement follows a speech by Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok during his visit to Cairo on March 12.
In his speech, Hamdok addressed the issue of the Halayeb and Shalateen triangle, calling for the need to address the unresolved issues in relations with the Egyptian authorities, namely the issue of the triangle in order to reach an agreement in this regard. .
On March 6, demonstrations broke out in various parts of Sudan to protest against the visit of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to Khartoum. The protests called for “taking back the Halayeb and Shalateen triangle in the Red Sea state”.
The Halayeb and Shalateen Triangle covers an area of 20,000 square kilometers (7,722 square miles) and includes several cities, including Halayeb, Abu Ramad, Ras al-Hadariya, Marsa Hamira and the city of Abraq. The region has a population of 27,000 people.
Sudan and Egypt are in conflict over the Halayeb, Shalateen and Abu Ramad triangle, as Khartoum has claimed sovereignty over the region since 1958, while Cairo insists it is part of Egyptian territory.
Sudan sometimes raises this question and evokes its right of sovereignty over the region. On February 25, the Sudanese government filed a new complaint with the United Nations Security Council, asking to impose sovereignty over the disputed territory.
On August 24, 2020, in a speech on the 66th anniversary of Army Day in the Wadi Sidna military zone in Khartoum state, Burhan said, “The armed forces will not give up an inch. Sudanese territory ”.
“We stand to our right and we will not give up or forget it until the Sudanese flag is hoisted in Halayeb and Shalateen,” he added.
On March 20, 2017, the head of the Technical Committee for the Demarcation of Borders in Sudan, Abdullah al-Sadiq, announced the formation of a committee that includes the ministries of justice, interior and foreign affairs as well as the Sudan National Archives Office and the Technical Committee for Boundary Demarcation to resolve the issue of the border areas of Halayeb, Shalateen and Abu Ramad, and to “expel” the Egyptians through diplomatic means.
On April 17, 2016, in an official statement from the Sudanese Foreign Ministry, Sudan called for direct negotiations on the Halayeb and Shalateen triangle or the need to resort to international arbitration in accordance with international laws and conventions. Egypt strongly rejected this call.
Commenting on the measures taken by Sudan, Samir Ghattas, former Egyptian lawmaker and head of the Middle East Strategic Studies Forum, told Al-Monitor that Egypt is very unlikely to give up territories in the region of Halayeb and Shalateen for the benefit of Sudan. .
He explained that this area represents significant strategic depth for Egypt since its southern borders on the Red Sea coast are exposed and vulnerable, which threatens national security and therefore Cairo would not allow Sudan to control the triangle. .
“It is possible that there is some sort of understanding, or concessions on the part of the Egyptian administration, that Sudan is present or carrying out excavations in the region but under Egyptian sovereignty. Egypt will not go so far as to cede the land to Sudan, ”Ghattas said.
He noted that in any event, Egypt would not announce the existence of such agreements with the Sudanese side for fear of angry popular reactions, which exploded when the Egyptian government declared that it had officially ceded the islands of Tiran and Sanafir to Saudi Arabia.
On June 16, 2017, after Friday prayers, protests erupted in various parts of the Egyptian capital to denounce the maritime border delimitation agreement between Egypt and Saudi Arabia, known as the Tiran and Sanafir. Dozens of protesters were arrested by security forces.
Ghattas said Egyptian leaders are forced to make concessions in the Halayeb and Shalateen dossier in order to preserve unprecedented strategic relations with Sudan, especially as Cairo faces Ethiopia’s intransigence during the start of the second filling stage of the great Ethiopian Renaissance dam. (GERD), without prior agreement with downstream countries, which poses a clear threat to the Egyptian government.
On April 6, Egypt announced the failure of the last round of GERD negotiations held in the Democratic Republic of Congo on April 4 and 5. Ethiopia was quick to announce its intention to launch the second phase of infill as planned in July.
Mona Omar, former Egyptian deputy foreign minister for African affairs, told Al-Monitor that there is integrated coordination between Sudan and Egypt at all levels, be it political or economic.
She said a settlement regarding the Halayeb and Shalateen region was expected in an attempt to thwart any outside attempt to drive a wedge between the two countries.
Omar also expects the region to witness new investments and the establishment of economic projects and cooperation with international companies generating gains for Egypt and Sudan.
On November 1, 2020, Egyptian army spokesperson Brig. General Tamer al-Rifai, announced that the leaders of the Egyptian and Sudanese armies have signed an agreement to increase cooperation in training, exchange of expertise and border security.
The Egyptian army announced on November 4, 2020 the launch of joint military exercises between Egypt and Sudan, a first between special and air forces.
On November 20, 2020, the National Organization for Military Production signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Sudan Defense Industries System in various fields of industrialization.
In a phone call with Burhan on January 2, Sisi announced Egypt’s full support for Khartoum in all areas based on the close association of Egyptian and Sudanese national security.