Sudan says an Ethiopian military aircraft entered its airspace in “a dangerous escalation” to a border dispute that has seen deadly clashes in recent weeks.
“In a dangerous and unjustified escalation, an Ethiopian military aircraft penetrated the Sudanese-Ethiopian borders,” Sudan’s foreign ministry said in a statement on Wednesday, adding that the move “could have dangerous ramifications and cause more tension in the border region”.
The ministry also warned Ethiopia against repeating “such hostilities”.
An Ethiopian military spokesman, General Mohamed Tessema, told the AFP news agency he had no “tangible information” on Sudan’s allegations and the situation at the border was “normal” on Wednesday.
Separately, a Sudanese military helicopter, loaded with weapons and ammunition, crashed on Wednesday shortly after taking off from an airport in an eastern province that borders Ethiopia, according to the state-run Sudan News Agency (SUNA).
“A military helicopter crashed at Wad Zayed airport in Gedarif State … when the crew tried to land the plane shortly after taking off,” SUNA reported.
The report said the plane caught fire after hitting the ground, adding that “all three members of the crew survived”.
We condemn this act of penetration by an Ethiopian Military aircraft to Sudanese territories which leads to increased tension in the region and impacts the sustainability of the bilateral diplomatic relations. https://t.co/3ItFKGAs5e
— Omer G. Ismail (@omerish) January 13, 2021
Tensions have been running high between the two countries over the Al-Fashaqa region, where Ethiopian farmers cultivate fertile land claimed by Sudan.
Al-Fashaqa region – which has seen sporadic clashes over the years – borders Ethiopia’s troubled Tigray region where deadly conflict erupted in November between Ethiopia’s federal and Tigray’s regional forces.
In December last year, Sudan accused Ethiopian “forces and militias” of ambushing its troops along the border, leaving four dead and more than 20 wounded.
Ethiopia said Sudanese military forces “organised attacks … using heavy machine guns” in December last year.
On Tuesday, Addis Ababa claimed Sudanese forces were pushing further into the border region and warned that while it “gives priority to peace”, it has “its limit”.
In response, Sudan’s information minister and government spokesman Faisal Mohamed Saleh said Khartoum did not want war with Ethiopia but its forces would respond to any aggression.
Khartoum also accused Ethiopian armed men of killing five women and a child on Monday in the area, calling it a “brutal aggression”.
The two sides held border talks last month, and Sudan declared its army had restored control over all border territory that had been taken over by Ethiopian farmers.
The border dispute comes at a sensitive time between the two countries, who along with Egypt have recently hit another impasse in talks over the massive Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on the Blue Nile River.