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Sudan, Ethiopia start border talks one week after clash

Dec 22, 2020
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Sudan and Ethiopia started talks Tuesday to demarcate their border, Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok’s office said, one week after a deadly clash in a disputed area.

The delegations were led by Ethiopia’s deputy prime minister and foreign minister, Demeke Mekonnen, and Sudan’s minister in charge of the cabinet, Omar Manis.

Hamdok and his Ethiopian counterpart Abiy Ahmed had on Sunday agreed on the talks on the margins of a Djibouti summit of regional bloc the Intergovernmental Authority on Development.

The two-day talks in Khartoum come a week after Ethiopian forces reportedly ambushed Sudanese troops along the border, leaving four dead and more than 20 wounded.

Sudan has since deployed troops to the Al-Fashaqa border region, the site of sporadic clashes.

The most contested region there is a 250 square kilometre (100 square mile) area where Ethiopian farmers cultivate fertile land on territory claimed by Sudan.

The area borders Ethiopia’s troubled Tigray region, where fighting broke out last month, causing tens of thousands of Ethiopians to flee and cross into Sudan.

Sudan and Ethiopia share a 1,600-kilometre (nearly 1,000 mile) border.

In 1902 a deal to draw up the frontier was struck between Great Britain, the colonial power in Sudan at the time, and Ethiopia but the agreement lacked clear demarcation lines.

The last Sudan-Ethiopia border talks were held in May in Addis Ababa but another meeting scheduled for the following month was cancelled.

Meetings on border demarcation were previously held between 2002 and 2006.

Addis Ababa has been keen to downplay the recent deadly border incident, saying it did not threaten the relationship between the two countries.

A foreign ministry spokesman in Addis Ababa told AFP Ethiopian security forces had “repelled a group of (Sudanese) low-ranking officers and farmers, who had encroached on Ethiopian territory”.

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