Sudan reopens border crossing with Ethiopia in bid to improve ties

Khartoum agrees to monitor the frontier in an attempt to prevent infiltration by armed groups

FILE PHOTO: An Ethiopian woman who fled the ongoing fighting in Tigray region, carries her child near the Setit river on the Sudan-Ethiopia border in Hamdayet village in eastern Kassala state, Sudan November 22, 2020. REUTERS/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah/File Photo
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Sudan has said that it would reopen with immediate effect an important border crossing with Ethiopia that it closed during recent tension between the two nations.

The Sudanese military on Sunday also said the country would "intensify" the monitoring of its frontier with Ethiopia to prevent the cross-border movement of armed groups.

This was apparently a reference to anti-government rebels from Ethiopia’s Tigray province, who are known to use Sudanese territory as a safe haven and engage in cross-border arms trafficking.

Sunday’s decision followed a meeting earlier this month in Nairobi between Sudan’s military ruler Gen Abdel Fattah Al Burhan and Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.

The two nations later issued upbeat statements saying the leaders agreed to take steps to improve relations and resolve a long-running border dispute.

Gen Abdel Fattah Al Burhan in Khartoum. Reuters

That dispute is centred on Fashaqa, a fertile border area in eastern Sudan that is claimed by Khartoum but which has for decades been settled by Ethiopian farmers protected by a local militia.

Sudan closed the Qalabat crossing, a lifeline for trade between the two nations, late last month. It called its ambassador in Addis Ababa to protest against what it said was the execution by Ethiopian forces of seven Sudanese soldiers and a civilian who were captured a week earlier.

The Addis Ababa government said the "tragic incident" took place on June 22 during an incursion on to Ethiopian territory by a Sudanese unit supported by rebels from the secessionist Tigray People's Liberation Front, or TPLF.

“This treacherous act will not pass without a response,” Gen Al Burhan said during a tour of the border region just hours after news broke about the killings.

Relations between Sudan and Ethiopia have been fraught in recent years, mostly over Fashaqa and a massive hydroelectric dam on the Blue Nile being built by Ethiopia.

The eastern territories of Sudan, which border Ethiopia's Tigray region, have been the scene of deadly clashes between the Sudanese and the Ethiopian sides in the past 18 months.

The violence coincided with the outbreak of fighting in Tigray in November 2020 between Tigrayan rebels and the Ethiopian government.

The conflict has sent tens of thousands of refugees from Tigray fleeing into Sudan.

Updated: July 18, 2022, 4:32 AM