EU delegation in Sudan to help solve border dispute with Ethiopia

Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto and colleagues will also visit Ethiopia this week

epa08956060 Sudanese Foreign Minister Omar Qamaruddin during a press conference at the airport shortly before leaving Khartoum, Sudan, 21 January 2021. British Foreign Secretary Raab visited Khartoum and met his counterpart to discuss the border dispute between Sudan and Ethiopia.  EPA/MOHAMMED ABU OBAID
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A European Union delegation arrived in Khartoum on Sunday to begin a mission intended to resolve an armed border dispute between Sudan and Ethiopia.

Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto and his delegation are scheduled to meet with Sudanese leaders including Foreign Minister Omar Qamaruddin during a two-day stay in the capital before they travel to Ethiopia.

It was not clear if Mr Haavisto took specific proposals to resolve the dispute or if he was on a fact-finding mission.

Whatever the case, the visit demonstrated how seriously the EU views the border dispute and the danger it poses to stability.

At the root of the dispute is a move by Sudanese troops in December to take back control of border enclaves inside Sudan’s border.

The areas have been settled by farmers from Ethiopia's powerful Amhara ethnic group under an decades-old informal arrangement.

The farmers have been protected by government-sanctioned Amhara militiamen and security forces.

Ethiopia said it would not negotiate a settlement of the dispute until Sudanese forces pulled out of the areas they took, a condition rejected by Khartoum.

It also accused Sudan of taking advantage of the conflict in the Tigray region, where Ethiopian federal forces are fighting separatist rebels to take back the border enclaves.

Tensions between Sudan and Ethiopia have been growing for months.

They are also locked in a long-running quarrel over a hydroelectric dam Ethiopia is building on the Blue Nile, fewer than 20 kilometres from the border.

Sudan insisted that Ethiopia must share data on the operation of the dam to ensure that its own hydro-electric dams on the Blue Nile are not disrupted and to avert flooding.

Ethiopia refused to enter a legally-binding agreement on the operation of the dam, saying that it preferred recommendations.