Egypt Pledges Support To Sudan, Amid Regional Rivalry

(Cairo) – Egypt is out to highlight its plan to offer support to Sudan in the coming days until the Arab-African state gets over the difficulties of its current transition.

During a visit to Sudanese capital Khartoum on August 17, Egyptian Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouli said this support would include political backing at international forums, especially the African Union which is now headed by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

The Egyptian plan for support was expressed as Sudan’s civilian opposition and the ruling military council finally inked a power-sharing deal that has opened the door for the formation of a sovereign council to manage Sudan’s affairs in the coming months and the naming of a prime minister.

Madbouli expressed hopes that the deal would help Sudan make a real leap on the road to improving the living conditions of its population.

Egypt’s relations with Sudan are very old, but they were sometimes marred by ideological differences, especially during the time of the Islamist-leaning Omar al-Bashir regime which fell down in April this year after months of protests by Sudanese citizens.

The same relations were spoiled in the past two decades by Bashir’s repeated demands for international arbitration to determine the fate of a border territory that has been Egyptian for hundreds of years.

“Egypt realizes that it cannot be stable in a turbulent region,” said Mohamed al-Shazly, a retired diplomat who served as Egypt’s ambassador in Sudan. “States cannot become isolated islands, especially when there are problems in the regions where they are located.”

The new Egyptian overture to Sudan comes at a time regional rivals Turkey and Qatar are trying to win over the new rulers in Khartoum.

Doha and Istanbul, the main sponsors of political Islam in the region, have been trying to tighten the noose around Cairo since it turned against the Muslim Brotherhood, which is believed to be the mother organization of all Islamist movements in the world, in mid-2013.

Relations between Cairo and these other two regional capitals started to deteriorate in June 2013, when the Egyptian army declared support to public protests against Muslim Brotherhood president Mohamed Morsi.

Egyptian authorities also put hundreds of Brotherhood leaders and affiliates in jail, accusing them of involvement in dozens of terrorist attacks against police stations, state institutions and Egypt’s Christian minority.

The same moves, however, brought Cairo wrath from Istanbul and Doha. The two capitals were hoping to use the Brotherhood, which rose to political stardom in the region following the Arab Spring revolutions, in achieving their regional supremacy and dominance.

These hopes fell, however, down like a house of cards in Cairo when millions of ordinary Egyptians rose up against Morsi and brought the Brotherhood rule down.

But this opened all the gates of hell on Egypt from the two states, including by their attempts to besiege it.

Analysts point to several economic, ideological and strategic reasons for the Qatar-Turkish war on Egypt, including the unfolding natural gas wealth in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Sudan has been at the center of political rivalry between Egypt, on one hand, and Qatar and Turkey, on the other.

Bashir, whose regime acted in close sync with Sudan’s Islamists, used to nurture close relations with Doha and Istanbul. The two capitals promised the ousted Sudanese ruler billions of dollars in support and investments.

Nevertheless, his downfall was bad news for the two states. Now, they are coming back with hopes of winning over the new administration in Sudan.

Turkey has already started its own charm offensive to regain influence in Sudan, long considered by Egypt as its backyard.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu attended the signing of the power-sharing deal in Khartoum on August 17.

A few hours later, he was seen on the streets of the Sudanese capital talking to ordinary people and distributing water cooler jugs to tea sellers.

“Sudan is very important for Egypt’s national security,” said Asmaa al-Husseini, an African affairs specialist at Egyptian think tank Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies. “The Turkish-Qatari alliance aims to prevent Sudan from having a smooth transition and prevent neighboring states from offering help to it.”