A senior official in President Omer Hassan Al-Bashir's government has demanded that the Egyptian army "immediately" cedes control of Halayeb, bringing back to the fore Sudan-Egypt's longstanding territorial dispute over the border region.
The Egyptian army seized control of Halayeb region, which occupies an area of land measuring 20,580 square km in the border areas of the Red Sea coast, after relations between the two neighbors plummeted due to the 1995's failed attempt by Islamists allegedly backed by Sudan to assassinate Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak in Addis Ababa.
In an interview relayed on Wednesday [February 16] by Al-Shurug Satellite TV, Sudan's presidential aide and leader of the former eastern rebels Beja Congress Musa Mohammed Ahmad called on the Egyptian army to pull out of Halayeb "immediately" so the area would not become a "bone of contention" between the neighboring nations.
Musa stressed that the issue is now easier to settle after the resignation of Mubarak whose regime Musa accused of "deliberately inciting sedition" between the two countries, expressing hope that the new Egyptian government would correct the mistakes of the old regime.
Mubarak was ousted last Friday [February 11] after 18 days of public protests against his 30-year rule. The Egyptian army is now the controlling power in the country for a six months transitional period open for extension.
Musa urged the high council of the Egyptian army to immediately pull out of Halayib, claiming that historical documents confirm that the area belongs to Sudan.
The official expressed support for the proposal put forward by Sudan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs to refer the issue of Halayeb to the UN Security Council (UNSC), saying that ruling on the issue would be in the favor of Sudan because the latter possesses documents confirming that "the triangle is 100% Sudanese"
Sudanese officials have long avoided raising the issue of Halayeb in public for fears of angering their Egyptian counterparts. Sudan has avoided registering voters inside Halayeb for the elections which took place last year despite earlier assertions that the region was included as a constituency.
But the issue of Halayeb flared up in July of last year when President Al-Bashir made a surprising assertion that "Halayeb is Sudanese and will stay Sudanese" while addressing a rally of his supporters at the coastal town of Port Sudan.
However, Al-Bashir's remarks were brushed aside by Egypt's foreign minister Ahmad Aboul-Gheit who said that "the Southern borders to Egypt are well known at latitude 22° and I see no need to further indulge in the historical backgrounds [of this subject]."
The Egyptian minister further noted that there was an agreement between Bashir and his Egyptian counterpart to make Halayeb and integration and development zone.
The genesis of the disputes over Halayib dates back to as early as 1958 after Sudan gained independence from Anglo-Egyptian Condominium. The wrangle is a result of a discrepancy in the demarcation of political boundaries set by the Anglo-Egyptian Condominium and the ones set earlier by the British in 1902.
Cairo rejects any international arbitration over the area. This week Sudan's foreign ministry said that the country's complaint to the UNSC on Halayeb pending since 1958 is renewed annually for consideration.
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