Egypt affirms sovereignty over Hala’ib Triangle amid renewed Sudanese contestation

Ahmed Abbas
4 Min Read
President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi met with his Sudanese counterpart Omar Al-Bashir and Ethiopian prime minister Hailemariam Desalegn on the sidelines of the Africa 2016 forum in Sharm El-Sheikh on Saturday.

The Egyptian Foreign Ministry said Sunday that the Hala’ib and Shalateen areas are Egyptian and fall under Egyptian sovereignty, in response to a Sudanese statement requesting negotiations over the issue.

“Hala’ib and Shalateen are Egyptian, and are subject to Egyptian sovereignty. Egypt does not have any further comments for the Sudanese foreign ministry,” the Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesperson said Sunday.

Sudan called on Egypt to negotiate over the contested areas of Hala’ib and Shalateen, stating that it would otherwise resort to international arbitration to restore its rights to the areas, according to official Sudanese news agency SUNA.

The Sudanese foreign ministry said in a statement Sunday, commenting on the agreement that saw the transfer of sovereignty over the islands of Tiran and Sanafir to Saudi Arabia, that Sudan will monitor such agreements to restore its rights to Hala’ib and Shalateen.

Earlier this year, Sudanese foreign minister Ibrahim Ghandour said the only way to resolve the land dispute is through an appeal to dialogue between Sudan and Egypt.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry declared in January that Egypt and Sudan are committed to reaching an agreement that serves the interests of the two peoples, and to achieving economic development in the face of international and regional threats.

Helmy Shawary, an expert on Sudan and the founder and deputy head of the Arab and African Research Centre, believes Sudan is pushing to affirm the need to review the issue.

“What is meant by Sudan about confirming the principle is that the issue of Hala’ib and Shalateen must be reviewed. Subsequently, the nature of the relations between the two countries will determine future steps,” said Shaarawy.

Although Egypt and Sudan have ostensibly enjoyed relatively friendly relations in the past years, the conflict surrounding the Hala’ib Triangle has long been the source of tensions between the two countries.

Sudanese journalist Hussam Badawi believes the Sudanese statement comes in response to reports that the Saudi foreign minister Adel Al-Jubair offered to help Egypt resolve the conflict surrounding the Hala’ib Triangle.

“This forced the Sudanese government to release this statement in an effort to distance Saudi Arabia from this issue, especially as Saudi Arabia had previously pledged to help Sudan with the same issue,” Badawi said.

Badawi also believes the Sudanese stance is “confusing, as it links the conflict over Hala’ib to the issue of Tiran and Sanafir, which is a completely different issue”.

Sudan has not yet responded to Egypt’s comment on the Sudanese foreign ministry’s statement.

Egyptian-Sudanese border disputes over the Hala’ib Triangle first arose in January 1958, when the Egyptian government sent a memorandum to the Sudanese government objecting to a new election law issued by Sudan for the elections scheduled to be held on 27 February 1958.

Shortly after Sudanese independence from Britain and Egypt, Sudan planned to hold elections in the triangle. President Nasser deployed troops to the area for a short period of time to secure the area ahead of the referendum for the United Arab Republic.

Until 1992, the two countries jointly controlled the area, until Egypt protested Sudan’s concession of exploration rights of the Hala’ib Triangle to a Canadian oil company.

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Ahmed Abbas is a journalist at DNE’s politics section. He previously worked as Egypt based reporter for, and interned as a broadcast journalist at Deutsche Welle TV in Berlin. Abbas is a fellow of Salzburg Academy of Media and Global Change. He holds a Master’s Degree of Journalism and New Media from Jordan Media Institute. He was awarded by the ICFJ for best public service reporting in 2013, and by the German foreign office for best feature in 2014.
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