FILE - Egypt’s minister of foreign affairs Sameh Shoukry
CAIRO – 12 May 2018: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has contacted Russian authorities to express Egypt’s strong disapproval of the public survey launched by Russia Today (RT) Friday over the sovereignty of the Halayeb Triangle area located on the Egyptian-Sudanese border, the ministry said in a statement Saturday.
In response to inquiries by a number of diplomatic editors on Egypt’s stance regarding the poll, the ministry’s spokesperson Ahmed Abu Zeid said that Egypt requested an urgent explanation for the “rejected action."
According to Abu Zeid, Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry cancelled an interview with Russia Today scheduled on Saturday morning after the survey. The interview was supposed to discuss the meeting of Egyptian and Russian foreign and defense ministers in the fourth round of the 2+2 strategic talks that are expected to be held on Monday.
On Friday, Egypt’s State Information Service (SIS) strongly deplored the public survey launched by Russia Today (RT) over the sovereignty of the Halayeb Triangle area located on the Egyptian-Sudanese border.
The SIS announced: “After the publication of this offending and inaccurate survey, we started to consult with the related Egyptian authorities, especially the ministry of foreign affairs, to discuss the steps and actions to be made against such unprofessional media coverage and violation for the sovereignty of the state.”
The SIS added in a statement that it decided to summon RT officials in Egypt on Saturday morning to inform them of Egypt's deep rejection and full condemnation of such acts that violates sovereignty of the state, and to identify the circumstances of this publication in preparation for taking the aforementioned steps and procedures.
Hala’ib and Shalateen, or the Hala’ib Triangle, is an area of land measuring 20,580 square kilometers, located at the Egyptian-Sudanese border on the Red Sea coast. It is part of the Red Sea governorate and consists of three major towns – Hala'ib (which became a city in February 2014), Abu Ramad and Shalateen.
The area belongs to Egypt politically and administratively, but has been one of the major sticking points in Egyptian-Sudanese relations since the demarcation of borders between the two countries carried out during the British occupation of Egypt in 1899, at a time when Sudan was part of the Egyptian Kingdom.
Sudan allegedly made military moves near Hala'ib and Shalateen on the Egypt-Sudan border in last March. The move came weeks after a televised interview with Saudi satellite channel Al-Arabiya, in which Sundanese President Omar al-Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes, threatened to resort to the U.N. Security Council to give its settlement over its claimed sovereignty over the triangle.
After the signing of an agreement delineating the maritime border between Egypt and Saudi Arabia in April 2016, Sudan raised the issue once again, demanding Egypt either engages in direct negotiations over the area or take the issue to international arbitration. Cairo rejected the proposal and stressed that the triangle is Egyptian territory and that it will not negotiate or resort to international arbitration on the matter.
According to Al Arabiya Institute for Studies, the Sudanese administration of Hala'ib and Shalateen was temporary and neither grants Sudan the right to rule the area, nor denies Egypt's sovereignty over any part of the territory.
Egypt affirms that it has never concluded any international treaties or agreements, whether with Britain or Sudan, to give international status to the demarcation of administrative borders.
The largest tribes inhabiting the Hala'ib Triangle, including Rashaida, Alababdeh and Bashaira, who rejected the Sudanese National Election Commission's decision granting people in Hala'ib the right to participate in Sudanese general elections. The three tribes asserted during their participation in the 6th October War victory celebration in 2009 that the area is 100 percent Egyptian.
Despite the common bonds of history, language and religion between the two Nile River neighbors, Egypt and Sudan’s diplomatic relations have been frosty recently due to various reasons, mainly the Hala’ib issue. The two countries have been engaged in high-level diplomatic initiatives to improve their relations.
Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry has visited the Sudanese capital Khartoum twice this year, with the goal of restoring strong, longstanding ties between Khartoum and Cairo. Relations had withered after July 2013, when former Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated President Mohammed Morsi was ousted.
In April 2017, the Joint Sudan-Egypt Committee for Political Consultation convened in Cairo and signed a media charter of honor and a commitment to continue consultations on arising political issues between the two countries.
In the same month, Shoukry and his Sudanese counterpart Ibrahim Ghandour agreed to work together to control the ongoing hostility in the news media in both countries caused by the mounting political tensions between the two neighbors.