Sudanese Foreign Minister Ibrahim Ghandour said that recent tension over the Grand Renaissance Dam was made up by the media, stressing Khartoum’s respect for the Nile River Agreement.
In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, Ghandour said: “Our brothers in Egypt, especially those who manage the negotiations on the Renaissance Dam, know that Sudan has stressed its respect to the Nile Water Agreement.”
“Egyptian media is trying to point to Sudan as if it was not a party to this equation, which also includes Ethiopia and Egypt. We always reiterate that Sudan is neither an intermediary nor a biased party, but an inherent part in this trilateral equation,” he added.
“For us, the most important principle is to preserve our interests without compromising the interests of our fellow brothers,” the Sudanese foreign minister stressed.
As for the disputed Halayeb triangle, Ghandour emphasized that the area belonged to the Sudanese land, based on historic facts, but noted that this issue would not be the “cause of any fighting or rivalry that leads to schism in the relations between Sudan and Egypt.”
He suggested however, that the case would be resolved through direct dialogue or by resorting to the International Court of Justice.
“What we want is for our brothers in Egypt to agree to hold negotiations as they did with the brothers in Saudi Arabia over Tiran and Sanafir, or to resort to the International Court of Justice as they did with Israel over Taba,” he said.
Moving to the lifting of US economic sanctions against Sudan, Ghandour noted that following the complete lifting of sanctions in October, a new phase of dialogue started with the US over the removal of the country from the US list of states sponsors of terrorism.
“This began with the visit of US Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan and a delegation in November. We have agreed to draw up a plan, and the two sides are now exchanging views,” he said.
In this regard, the Sudanese minister underlined the important role assumed by Saudi Arabia in the lifting of the US economic sanctions.
“The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Salman bin Abdulaziz and his Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, assumed a major role in lifting the sanctions. This is well known and highly valued by all the Sudanese people. The UAE, represented by Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed and Prince Abdullah bin Zayed - the foreign minister who was directly coordinating with me - also played an important role in this matter,” Ghandour stated, naming other contributors to this achievement, including Arab and Gulf countries represented by the Arab League, as well as Britain, Norway, the European Union and the African Union.
Asked about the American conditions for removing the country from the list of states sponsors of terrorism, the foreign minister said: “The United States is preoccupied with two issues in Sudan: religious freedoms and human rights, as well as the fight against terrorism in the region.”
“The United States publishes an annual report on religious freedoms and human rights, which covers all countries of the world. Some US reservations on the status of human rights and religious freedoms in Sudan were mentioned in this report.”
He noted that some considered the visit of an American senior delegation to Khartoum few weeks following the issuance of the report as an indication to the nature of conditions set by the US.
“This is not true,” Ghandour stressed, saying: “When the US Deputy Secretary of State raised the issue of religious freedom and human rights at the meeting, our response pointed to the fact that Sudan’s record of religious freedom is the best in the world, and that we are seeking, without any foreign pressure, to reform our record if there are problems. The same applies to human rights, as we are committed to the Sudanese Constitution, which clearly refers to religious freedoms and human rights and to the international and regional agreements we have signed.”
On whether Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir would run for a new presidential term, Ghandour said that the president has expressed more than once that he did not want to renew his tenure.
“But there is a very clear popular desire; there are many parties other than the National Conference calling for the re-nomination of al-Bashir, such as the Democratic Union… and the parties of the government of national unity and other popular, youth and students movements,” he said.