ADDIS ABABA, 21 January 2021 – Ethiopia on Tuesday said it will not hold border talks until Sudanese troops pull out of their disputed common border territory.
The dispute has fuelled deadly clashes in recent weeks and sparked fears that the two countries could go to war over the contested border situated in the Al-Fashaqa regon.
Addis Ababa is committed to a “peaceful resolution of the standoff”, according to Dina Mufti, a spokesperson for Ethiopia’s foreign ministry who spoke Tuesday during a press conference.
Sudan has made similar public commitments to peaceful resolution of conflict.
However, since early December 2020, the two countries have traded accusations bordering on the beating of war drums.
Sudan has alleged that Ethiopian “forces and militias” have repeatedly attacked Sudanese soldiers patrolling the border area.
Ethiopia, on its part, has accused Sudan of using “heavy machine guns” to attack civilians, leading to the death of “many [Ethiopian] civilians”.
In reiterating its commitment to peaceful resolution of conflict on Tuesday, Addis Ababa insisted that Sudan must first pull out of the Al-Fashaqa region.
“For us to negotiate, our precondition is Sudan returns to the previous land it controlled,” Mufti said.
“They should return to the status quo, and then we can return to negotiations,” Mufti added, answering questions from journalists at a press conference in Addis Ababa Tuesday.
The Al-Fashaqa region is fertile and mostly Ethiopian farmers cultivate food in it, while Sudan claims it is part of its territory.
Mufti once suggested that Sudan was taking advantage of Ethiopian forces engaged in conflict in Tigray to press territorial claims in Al-Faashaqa.
The two countries held border talks last month and in late December, Sudan declared that it had reclaimed ownership of all its territories under the control of Ethiopian farmers for 25 years.
The border demarcation, which first met in 1902 with the British helping, has never been finalized.