Sudan’s transitional cabinet has backed an initiative by the United Arab Emirates to mediate in a border dispute with Ethiopia, as well as over a controversial large dam built by Addis Ababa on the Blue Nile River.
Tensions surrounding the control of farmland in the al-Fashaqa region, on the border, have escalated in recent months, while talks over the operation of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), which will affect water volume downstream on the Nile in Sudan and Egypt, are deadlocked.
Sudan’s Information Minister Hamza Baloul said on Tuesday the cabinet had supported the proposal for Emirati mediation after it had been studied at the ministry level.
It came as Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed insisted on Tuesday his country does not want war with Sudan, calling for tensions over al-Fashaqa to be resolved peacefully.
Ethiopian farmers have long worked in the fertile border zone, but the agricultural area is also claimed by Sudan.
In recent months, Sudan has sent troops into al-Fashaqa, a move deplored by Ethiopia as an “invasion”. A string of deadly clashes followed, with both sides trading accusations of violence and territorial violations.
Abiy, already grappling with Ethiopia’s internal conflicts, including in the Tigray region, said his country “is not ready to go to battle”.
“Sudan in its current state isn’t in shape to fight with a neighbouring country, it has lots of problems. Ethiopia also has many problems. We don’t need war. It is better to settle it in a peaceful manner,” said Abiy.
The UAE has also offered to mediate on the GERD, a hydro-electric megaproject that Egypt and Sudan say threatens their vital water supplies.
Ethiopia says the project is essential for its electrification and development but Egypt, which relies on the Nile for the vast majority of its freshwater needs, sees the dam as an existential threat while Sudan fears its own dams would be harmed if no agreement is reached.
Last month, Khartoum suggested mediation by a quartet of the African Union, European Union, United Nations and the United States, a proposal welcomed by Cairo, but rejected by Addis Ababa.
On Thursday, Sudan said all four of these would-be mediators had signalled their willingness to take on such a role in helping to resolve the decade-old dispute over the mega-dam.