(Ecofin Agency) - Following an emergency meeting of its Security and Defense Council on Jan 17, Sudan called on the Ethiopian government to withdraw its forces from the Al-Fashaqa region, which the two countries have been disputing on for years.
“Despite the military mobilization and build-up carried out by Ethiopia in the areas facing our forces in Al-Fashaqa, we confirm that our forces will remain in their lands to preserve sovereignty stipulated in the charters and agreements that affirm Sudan’s entitlement,” Sudanese Defense Minister Lieutenant General Yassin Ibrahim Yassin said in a press release.
He called on Ethiopia to “withdraw its forces from the remaining positions it still occupies in Maraghad, Khor Hamar, and Ghatar (in the Al-Fashaqa region, ed) as soon as possible in compliance with international treaties and the sustainability of good-neighborly relations.”
The battle between the two countries over this region, inhabited by Ethiopian farmers (who operate land claimed by Sudan), has sharply increased in recent weeks. On Thursday, Sudanese authorities banned flights over the border area after declaring that an Ethiopian military plane had violated Sudanese airspace in a "dangerous and unjustified escalation." The allegations were denied on Friday by the Ethiopian army chief of staff, General Berhanu Gula.
Last week, Sudan claimed at least five people died in border attacks by Ethiopian government-backed militias and that it will use all "available means" to respond. Earlier in December, Sudan accused Ethiopian "forces and militias" of ambushing Sudanese troops along the border, killing four people and wounding more than 20. The incident resulted in a large number of Sudanese military backups being sent to the border with Ethiopia to "recover land usurped by Ethiopian militias.”
Abdel-Fattah al-Burhan (pictured, left), Chairman of the Sovereignty Council of Sudan, said on Saturday his country did not mean to start a war with Ethiopia and has no interest in doing so. Sudan just wants to protect its border rights.
In a press conference on Friday, the Ethiopian army chief of staff also said Addis Ababa has no interest in going to war with Sudan. He added that if the Ethiopian army went to war, "we would not hide."
The commander of the Ethiopian army added that a small group within the Sudanese government is working for the benefit of a third party and is standing behind the incursions.
The Al-Fashaqa region borders the Tigray region of Ethiopia where the Ethiopian government has been waging a military campaign against the TPLF since November; a conflict that has led to the exodus of more than 45,000 Ethiopian refugees to Sudan, according to the United Nations.