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Another meeting for Sisi and Bashir as Sudan lifts ban on Egyptian imports

After a brief diplomatic crisis, the two countries appear to be back on track, triggering concern from Sudanese activists living in exile in Egypt

Sisi and Bashir in Khartoum on Thursday (AFP)

Sudan has lifted a 17-month-long ban on Egyptian goods following an official visit from Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to Khartoum on Thursday.

“Today I signed a decision to lift the ban on the entry of Egyptian products to Sudan, to remove all obstacles to the movement of trade and people between the two countries,” Sudan's president Omar al-Bashir told reporters.

During the visit, the two countries signed 12 cooperation agreements in various trade and economic sectors including agriculture, healthcare, and higher education.

The two leaders met in Cairo this March (AFP)
According to Egyptian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry, the value of his country's exports to Sudan stood at $550m last year, while Sudanese exports to Egypt are worth $103m.

The visit is Sisi’s second to Sudan in less than two months, as relations between the two have warmed up after a brief diplomatic crisis.

That deadlock was the result of a range of issues, including ongoing border disputes over the mineral-rich Halaib Triangle region on the Red Sea coast and Egypt's concerns over the construction of the Grand Renaissance Dam in Ethiopia.

Egypt fears its share of the Nile River could be reduced by the dam, while Sudan has been supportive of Ethiopia's project.

Egypt has also accused Khartoum of hosting members of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, while Sudan had been frustrated with Cairo for hosting Sudanese opposition figures.

A visit by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to Sudan in December 2017 prompted the Egyptian media to accuse Khartoum of cosying up to Qatar and Turkey, which both support the Muslim Brotherhood.

The crisis came to a fore in January when Khartoum recalled its ambassador in Cairo over border conflicts and Egypt threatened to file a complaint with the UN Security Council against Sudan. 

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At that time, Sudan banned animal and agricultural imports from Egypt.

But after a coordinated campaign against Sudan, Egyptian newspapers and TV channels received instructions from state authorities to stop criticising Bashir and the Sudanese people to avoid further escalation of tensions.

In March, diplomatic relations were restored, and during this week's visit, the issues that triggered the crisis seem to have been off the agenda.

The growing ties between Bashir and Sisi have aroused the fear of Sudanese opposition activists in exile in Egypt. They are worried that the two leaders have agreed to work together to crush political opposition.

Last July, Egypt banned Sadiq al-Mahdi, a prominent Sudanese opposition leader, from entering the country on his way back from a conference in Germany. Al-Mahdi, Sudan’s last elected prime minister before Bashir’s coup in 1989, had lived in Egypt since 2014.

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