Sudan said on Sunday it was recalling its ambassador to Ethiopia because Addis Ababa had refused an offer to mediate a ceasefire in the Tigray conflict.
Billene Seyoum, a spokeswoman for Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, accused Sudan on Thursday of occupying Ethiopian territory, a reference to the disputed Fashaqa border strip seized by Sudanese troops late last year.
She said Khartoum was not a “credible” party to function as mediator.
The recalling of Sudan’s ambassador and the Ethiopian accusations are certain to lead to further deterioration in relations between the two countries, which are also at sharp odds over a dam being built on the Blue Nile.
In a foreign ministry statement, Sudan said the Ethiopian claims were part of Addis Ababa’s “habit” of ignoring facts. The claims, it said, were “rooted in the ambitions of some circles in the Ethiopian government that will stop at nothing to realise them.”
Khartoum’s interest in ending the Tigray conflict was part of its commitment to maintaining regional peace and stability, the statement said. Sudan wanted to see a comprehensive ceasefire followed by political dialogue to “safeguard Ethiopia’s unity and stability,” it said.
Tens of thousands of people have fled Tigray since conflict began there in November. They have sought refuge across the border in Sudan, which provided a safe haven for hundreds of thousands of Ethiopians during the two decades of civil war that ended in 1990.
“A sense of responsibility and the tragic humanitarian suffering in Tigray entitle Sudan and anyone else capable of taking positive action to do what it can to help,” the Sudanese statement said.
“Sudan is a neighbour that’s harmed by much of the conflict’s spill-overs, especially refugees … All international and regional parties are interested in ending the conflict in the Tigray region. Sudan recalled its ambassador in Ethiopia so that it can weigh its options in this respect.”
About 50 bodies have been discovered in the Setit River in the past two weeks, Tigrayan refugees said. The waterway, also known as the Tekeze, flows through some of the most troubled areas of the nine-month conflict and separates Tigray from Sudan
Sudan’s relations with Ethiopia plummeted in December when Sudanese troops moved to wrest back control of the Fashaqa enclave after a series of deadly clashes.
Fashaqa had long been settled by Ethiopian farmers backed by government troops and allied militias. Sudan maintains that it is Sudanese territory, but Ethiopia rejects that claim.