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CAIRO – 12 May 2018: Russia Today (RT) apologized on Saturday over a poll conducted on the disputed Halayeb Triangle area located on the Egyptian-Sudanese border after Egypt voiced its disapproval of the poll.
“Russia Today’s administration apologized for the resentment caused to the Egyptian side. It explained that the purpose [of the poll] did not represent any offence to Egypt. It also did not aim to question its [Egypt’s] territorial integrity. It [the poll] is an applicable media form being used to deal with issues,” the channel said.
“We abide by the rules of objectivity and neutralism in dealing with our news stories,” the statement read, affirming that the poll results do not represent the channel’s editorial policy.
On Friday evening, the channel launched a poll over the sovereignty of the Halayeb Triangle, asking whether the area belongs to Egypt or Sudan.
The survey fueled Egypt’s resentment. Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Ahmed Abu Zeid said that Egypt requested an urgent explanation for the “rejected action," adding that Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry cancelled an interview with Russia Today scheduled for Saturday morning after the survey. The interview was supposed to discuss the meeting of the 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.
Egypt’s State Information Service (SIS) said in a statement that the channel has removed the poll from its website after conducted contacts with representatives of RT in Cairo.
On Friday, the SIS strongly deplored the public survey, announcing, “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 of the sovereignty of the state.”
Halayeb and Shalateen, or the Halayeb 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 – Halayeb (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 Halayeb and Shalateen last March. The move came weeks after a televised interview with Saudi satellite channel Al-Arabiya, in which Sudanese 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 area.
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 engage 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 Halayeb 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 Halayeb Triangle include the Rashaida, Alababdeh and Bashaira, who rejected the Sudanese National Election Commission's decision granting people in Halayeb the right to participate in Sudanese general elections. During their participation in the 6th October War victory celebration in 2009, the three tribes asserted that the area is 100 percent Egyptian.