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Sudan Is Reconsidering Ethiopia's Sovereignty over Benishangul Region

Sudan Is Reconsidering Ethiopia's Sovereignty over Benishangul Region

Sunday, 2 May, 2021 - 07:00
The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam has been a source of discord for years. (AP)

Sudan said it might reconsider Ethiopia's sovereignty over the Benishangul region, where the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) is built if Addis Ababa continues to disavow international agreements.

The Sudanese Foreign Ministry denounced statements by Ethiopian officials who rejected the “colonial agreements” - a reference to the 1902 and the 1959 border treaties.

The ministry stressed that the “irrational complacency in using these misleading claims and disavowing previous agreements also means compromising Ethiopia’s sovereignty over the Benishangul region, which was transferred from Sudan under some of these agreements.”

The claim that the relevant agreements are an “insignificant colonial legacy is an explicit fallacy of historical facts,” read the statement, indicating that Ethiopia was an independent sovereign state and a member of the international community at the time of the conclusion of those agreements.

The ministry warned that rejecting previous agreements compromises Ethiopia’s sovereignty over the Benishangul.

Benishangul was transferred from Sudan to Ethiopia in 1902 according to the agreements.

Moreover, the ministry told Ethiopia that the introduction of other issues into the GERD discussion is not productive and obstructs negotiations in an attempt to impose de facto policies that do not serve the issues of good neighborliness and the security and stability of the region.

Sudan has started mobilizing global and regional public support to continue serious negotiations to reach a binding legal agreement over the dam.

Over the past two days, Sudanese Foreign Minister Maryam Al-Sadiq Al-Mahdi visited Kenya and Rwanda, as part of an African tour to harness support in the negotiations.

Al-Mahdi called on African leaders and the African Union (AU) to pressure Ethiopia into reaching a binding agreement between Sudan, Ethiopia and Egypt.

Last week, the Sudanese Foreign Minister held meetings with the EU and AU ambassadors in Khartoum, during which they discussed the negotiations.

Border tension between Sudan and Ethiopia escalated during the conflict in the Tigray region, after Ethiopian forces and militias attacked Sudanese forces inside their territory, killing three people and a high-ranking officer.

As a result, the Sudanese army redeployed within its territory and regained control of more than 80 percent of the areas where Ethiopians were present for several years.

Sudan has threatened to sue the Ethiopian government and the Italian company implementing the dam if the filling is completed for the second year, without reaching a legal agreement.

Meanwhile, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed committed to the second filling during the coming rainy season, stressing that the country will overcome the challenges.

In a message on Easter Day, Ahmed asserted that his country will complete the second filling as scheduled next July, saying some countries, which did not name, are trying to obstruct Addis Ababa.

Meanwhile, former aide to the Egyptian foreign minister Ambassador Gamal Bayoumi told Asharq Al-Awsat that attempts to create a political crisis complicate reaching an agreement.

He pointed out that Addis Ababa’s actions during the negotiations reveal that it does not harbor good intentions.

The Ethiopian government recently announced it will start the second phase of filling the reservoir with about 13.5 billion cubic meters. The first phase was completed in July 2020.

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