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Egypt, Sudan schedule talks after disputed territory escalation

Shoukry and Ghandour agreed to hold talks in Khartoum next month [Anadoiu]

Date of publication: 22 March, 2017

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Egypt and Sudan will hold talks in Khartoum in April to discuss a recent Sudanese escalation on the disputed border territory of Halayeb.

Egypt and Sudan are scheduled to hold discussions in Khartoum in April, Egypt's Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Tuesday, two days after Sudan made moves on disputed territory on the Egypt-Sudan border.

Egyptian foreign minister Sameh Shoukry and his Sudanese counterpart Ibrahim Ghandour expressed in a phone call their "full rejection of unacceptable transgressions or insults between the two brotherly countries," the statement said.

The two ministers denounced what they called "attempts to stir [agitation] as well as the irresponsible handling [of issues] by some social media users and media outlets".

They also agreed to put into effect cooperation plans recently endorsed by a joint presidential committee of the two countries.

The statement followed a media row that erupted this week over ownership of Halayeb, a disputed and sparsely populated 25,000-square-kilometre area on Egypt's southeast border with Sudan.

On Sunday, the head of Sudan's Technical Committee for Border Demarcation (TCBD) revealed that a committee had been formed to draw up a plan to make the Halayeb Triangle "Egyptian-free".

"The committee held a preparatory meeting to develop guidelines and a road map to explore ways to evict the Egyptians from the area through diplomacy," Abdallah al-Sadeq said, according to the Sudan Tribune.

According to the Sudanese newspaper, the committee comprises of the Justice Ministry, the Interior Ministry, the National Records Office and the TCBD.

The move comes weeks after a televised interview with Saudi-Arabian satellite channel al-Arabiya, in which Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir threatened to resort to the United Nations Security Council to settle the Halayeb dispute.

Last April, Sudan's Foreign Ministry asked Egypt to either engage in direct negotiations over the area or take the issue to international arbitration, a proposal Egypt rejected.

Khartoum says that Halayeb has been part of its sovereign territory since shortly after independence in 1956.

Egypt occupied the mineral-rich border region in 1995, during a low point in relations between the two countries.

It has since been a source of tension between both countries.

In 2015, Egypt created an electoral district in Halayeb in the parliamentary elections, a move heavily criticised by Sudan.

Last month, Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir said that his country would protest to the United Nations if Egypt does not end its "occupation" of the Halayeb Triangle.

"The Halayeb triangle is Sudanese and we will not make any concessions," he said, calling for negotiations with Cairo.

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