Sudan’s government said Tuesday it has accepted an offer by the United Arab Emirates to mediate with Ethiopia over a contested border region and Addis Ababa’s controversial hydroelectric dam.
Tensions have been running high between Khartoum and Addis Ababa over the Al-Fashaqa region, where Ethiopian farmers have long cultivated fertile land claimed by Sudan.
The border tensions have come at a delicate time between the two countries, which along with Egypt have been locked in inconclusive talks over the massive Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on the Blue Nile River.
Sudan’s “transitional cabinet has discussed Tuesday an initiative by the UAE to mediate talks between Sudan and Ethiopia over the border dispute,” government spokesman Hamza Baloul told AFP.
The UAE has also offered to mediate in the long-running dam talks with Ethiopia, according to Baloul.
“The cabinet expressed its willingness to deal with the (UAE) initiative to serve Sudan’s higher interests,” he added.
Al-Fashaqa — 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 recent months, Sudan has sent troops into the Al-Fashaqa area, a move deplored by Ethiopia as an “invasion”.
A string of deadly clashes followed, with both sides trading accusations of violence, and territorial violations.
Meanwhile, downstream Khartoum and Cairo have for a decade been pushing for a deal with upstream Ethiopia over its Blue Nile dam, which they both view as a threat.
Egypt, which relies on the Nile for 97 percent of its fresh water needs, sees the dam as 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 that 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.