Egypt-Sudan relations strained over Erdogan’s visit to Khartoum

 Egypt’s pro-government media on Thursday vilified neighboring Sudan over its expanding ties with Turkey and Qatar, saying the three are conspiring against Egypt.

While the government has publicly remained silent, Egyptian media seized on a visit to Sudan earlier this week by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a meeting in Khartoum between the chiefs of staff of Sudan, Turkey and Qatar, and renewed efforts by Khartoum to revive a longtime border dispute with Egypt, according to a report by AP.

Most views expressed in Egypt’s media reflect the thinking of the government or at least one of its key institutions. The criticism of Sudan and its longtime ruler Omar Bashir included personal insults and questioning the country’s statehood.

Tensions between Egypt and Sudan, which are bound by the Nile River and historic ties, often play out in the media, with the two governments keeping their distance.

The latest row could deepen a rift between Egypt and Sudan over a massive dam being built by Ethiopia that Cairo views as a threat to its share of the Nile, which provides nearly all of Egypt’s water. Negotiations over the dam are at an impasse, with Sudan appearing to tilt toward Ethiopia in the dispute.

The spat could also add to regional tensions. Egypt joined Saudi Arabia in its blockade of Qatar earlier this year, and has long been at odds with both Turkey and Qatar over their support for the Muslim Brotherhood, a regional Islamist movement that is now outlawed in Egypt.

“Sudanese President Omar Bashir is playing with fire in exchange for dollars,” wrote columnist Emad Adeeb in the Cairo daily Al-Watan, alluding to what he said was Bashir’s attempt to gain from regional rivalries.

“Sudan is violating the rules of history and geography and is conspiring against Egypt under the shadow of Turkish madness, Iranian conspiracy, an Ethiopian scheme to starve Egypt of water and Qatar’s financing of efforts to undermine Egypt,” wrote Adeeb, whose column was headlined: “Omar Bashir’s political suicide.”

Of particular concern to Egypt, according to commentaries and news reports, is Sudan’s burgeoning military ties with Turkey, including a joint naval facility on the Red Sea to repair civilian and military vessels that was announced by Bashir and the Turkish leader this week in Khartoum.

Sudan, which is in the grips of an economic crisis, complained this month to the United Nations that a maritime demarcation agreement reached in 2016 by Egypt and Saudi Arabia infringed on what it claimed to be Sudanese waters off an Egyptian-held border region it claims as its own. Egypt denies the Sudanese claim.

Egyptian media, meanwhile, insist that Bashir has ceded to Turkey sovereignty over Suakin, a small but strategic island off Sudan’s Red Sea coast. Erdogan has denied his country is constructing a naval base there, saying Turkey only plans to restore Ottoman-era ruins in the area.

Emad Hussein, editor of Cairo’s Al-Shorouk daily, wrote Thursday that Erdogan’s visit to Sudan, the first by a Turkish head of state, “cannot be viewed … except as harassment of Egypt and an attempt to annoy it by any means possible.”