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A New Future for the Nile Region

Al-Sharq al-Awsat, London, May 30

Finally, Sudan’s hostility toward Egypt, which lasted for over two decades, has come to an end. The visit of Abdel-Fattah El-Burhan, president of Sudan’s Transitional Military Council, to Cairo, is an important political development that signals a change in the relations between the two countries. For years, Sudan and Egypt faced difficult relations. Sudan under its former leader, Omar al-Bashir, was closely aligned with Qatar and Iran. Bashir and his cronies turned Sudan into a hotbed for Islamist groups throughout the region, many of which launched attacks across the border in Egyptian territory. Bashir handed over the Sudanese island of Suakin to Turkey and invited the latter to establish a military base on its territory. This move was designed to provoke Egypt and Saudi Arabia, and undermine the latter’s control over the Red Sea. Thankfully, the recent removal of Bashir from power finally allows Sudan and Egypt to reset their relations. Burhan’s decision to visit Cairo and launch direct talks with President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi is the ultimate expression of this renewed hope for peaceful relations between the two countries. It is ultimately in Sudan’s best interest to invest its resources in economic development and the reconstruction of civil society rather than in expensive feats meant to undermine Egypt’s sovereignty. Sudan also has a lot to gain from trade with Egypt, which could refuel and stimulate its economy. Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Sudan are the mainstay of the Red Sea security system. The main obstacle to the implementation of this system was the lack of confidence in the Bashir regime. Therefore, the recent change in leadership in Sudan has great potential for the future of the Nile region in general, and relations between Sudan and Egypt in particular. This provides renewed hope for a Nile region that will finally rid itself of war and hostility, and become a prosperous region of Africa and the world. – Abd al-Rahman al-Rashed (translated by Asaf Zilberfarb)