Ethiopia Chief of General Staff, Birhanu Jula Gelalcha, has blamed “a third party” for his country’s border role with Sudan, saying the intention is to disrupt the negotiations on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD).
Birhanu – a General with the Ethiopian National Defense Force – said the Sudanese army has been violating Ethiopia’s sovereignty and asked its neighbour to “shun the pressure it has been facing to go into a proxy war”.
He said Sudan should rather commit itself to resolving the border dispute with Ethiopia through dialogue.
The two countries have disagreed on the construction of the GERD being built on the Blue Nile.
Tensions among Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt, over the dam began to rise after Ethiopia announced last year that it had started filling the reservoir.
In the latest round of talks, which stalled, Sudan said it presented a strongly-worded protest to Ethiopia and the African Union on Ethiopia’s decision to continue filling the dam for the second successive year next July with 13.5 billion cubic meters of water regardless of whether or not an agreement was reached.
Birhanu said the unnamed third party is taking advantage of Ethiopia’s engagement in the north of the country with the Tigray People’s Liberation Force (TPLF) as well as Sudan political transition.
“Our internal problem was one thing and the weakening of Sudan’s internal strength another. These factors resulted in helping the third party to push its agenda. It is a well thought out plan, and the third party has calculated that Sudan would not stand with Ethiopia in the Renaissance Dam negotiation,” he said.
Birhanu noted that border disputes between the two countries were not new and had been resolved peacefully. However, “the current problem was exacerbated by the third party”.
Birhanu said that Ethiopia did not have a desire to go to war with its “historical friend Sudan” and it wanted to solve the problem peacefully.
He called on Sudan to resolve its differences through negotiations by avoiding such “a war trap laid by a third party”.
Birhanu said a year ago, Ethiopia played an important role in resolving the political crisis in Sudan peacefully and without harming the Sudanese people.
He said a meeting was scheduled to be held between the military of the two countries soon.
“In the past, there were occasional border crossings in which sometimes we go in and sometimes they get in. But those had been resolved through discussions. The situation has now escalated as a third party is involved. The object is to lead us into conflict with our neighbours and attain their target. So we don’t have to do what they want. Discussions have now taken place at all levels including military-to-military talks between the two nations.”
The President of Sudan’s Transitional Sovereignty Council, Lt. Gen. Abdul-Fattah Al-Burhan, also said this week that his country does not want to go to war with Ethiopia as tension between the two countries rises over incidents on their border.
The Sudanese Civil Aviation Authority has banned flights over the Al-Fashaga border area, east of the city of Gadarif, on the border with Ethiopia.
It said that the ban would be from 14 January until 11 April.
Sudan has accused an Ethiopian military plane of violating its airspace and border with the Sudan Ministry of Foreign Affairs describing the incident as a “dangerous escalation that could have severe consequences and would result in more tension at the border area”.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in a statement demanded that “such hostilities should not be repeated in the future due to their dangerous repercussions on the future of the bilateral relations between the two countries and on the security and stability in the Horn of Africa region”.
Sudan and Ethiopia have also accused each other of other incidents on their common border with Ethiopia accusing Sudan of inflaming the situation.
The Sudan Ministry of Foreign Affairs has “strongly” condemned the “treacherous armed attack” by the Ethiopian militias on Quresha locality, in eastern Sudan, which killed five women and a child.
It said in a statement that two Sudanese women were also missing “due to the aggression”.
Ethiopia’s foreign ministry, without specifically mentioning Sudan’s complaint, said the Sudanese Armed Forces had been “inflaming” the situation at the border despite Ethiopia’s “magnanimous and tolerant attitude to settle the issues peacefully”.
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