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The Takeaway: Sudan not occupying Ethiopian territory, says Sudan’s ambassador to US

Highlights of our exclusive interview with Nureldin Satti, Sudan’s ambassador to the United States; quick takes on Israel, Iran, Syria, Turkey, Egypt, Kuwait and China; and Gaza’s shelter for stray dogs!
Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly (L) welcomes his Sudanese counterpart, Abdalla Hamdok, upon his arrival in the Egyptian capital, Cairo, on March 11, 2021. Sudan, Egypt and Ethiopia have been locked for almost a decade in inconclusive talks over the filling and operation of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) on the Blue Nile, which broke ground in 2011.

Hot take: Ethiopia's Nile dam can be 'symbol of regional cooperation ...rather than cause of conflict' 


In an exclusive interview on Al-Monitor’s "On the Middle East" podcast today, Nureldin Satti, Sudan’s ambassador to the United States, discussed developments in Sudan, the Horn of Africa, US-Sudan relations and the Abraham Accords. Here are some highlights:

On border tensions with Ethiopia. “We have not occupied Ethiopian territory. … We have recovered our rightful rights to our borders, which have been recognized since the 19th century," Satti said, responding to a tweet from the Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs that Sudan was the "main actor" in jeopardizing peace and security in the region by "invading Ethiopian territories, plundering and displacing civilians, and beating war drums to occupy even more lands."

"This kind of language is not helpful," said Satti.

On GERD talks. The "stumbling block" to the talks among Sudan, Egypt and Ethiopia on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) has so far been the "unwillingness" of Ethiopia "to engage in talks that would result in a binding agreement," adding that “we hope they will reconsider their position … [so] the GERD can become a symbol of regional cooperation and integration rather than a cause of conflict."

Satti recognized the "constructive" US diplomacy regarding the GERD and in the region, which Sudan welcomes, and praised the "emancipation, awareness and maturity" of Sudan’s youth in contributing to the country’s transition and positive political and social trends.

Check out the full podcast interview here.

Five quick takes on Israel, Syria, Turkey, Kuwait, Egypt, Tunisia and China


1. Israel on alert after Iran blast 


Did Israel give US leverage in JCPOA talks? Short of denying involvement, the Joe Biden administration has remained tight-lipped over the recent attack on Iran’s Natanz nuclear enrichment site. Rather than undermine the American negotiating position with Tehran, the suspected Israeli operation may have created leverage, writes Ben Caspit. “Israel is leaving the Americans room to maneuver by neutralizing Iran’s threat to intensify uranium enrichment as a bargaining chip in the talks.”  

Even so, the timing was less than ideal. Caspit writes that Israeli officials were concerned that the Natanz explosion, which came as US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin visited Israel, would embarrass the Americans.

Flashback … to Biden’s 2010 trip to Israel as vice president, when the Israeli government blindsided the VP by announcing new settlements after US President Barack Obama had called for a pause.

For his part, Austin reportedly made clear to his hosts that the United States is still bent on getting Iran to the negotiating table. 


2. Syria’s jihadists battle it out 


HTS goes after rival. The rivalries between extremist groups in northwestern Syria are heating up, with hard-line Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) renewing its crackdown against a smaller jihadist faction, Hurras al-Din. As HTS squeezes the al-Qaeda-affiliated group, Khaled al-Khateb examines whether a weakened Hurras al-Din can rebuild its ranks or if its demise is a foregone conclusion

Islamic State picks up fight in desert. Meanwhile, Sultan al-Kanj explains how the Islamic State is benefiting from the chaos of Syria’s other conflicts and creating a headache for regime forces in Syria’s central and eastern desert regions. Plus, Mohammed Hardan takes a look at the dangers posed by landmines scattered across opposition-held Syria.


3. China eyes Erdogan’s ‘crazy project’ 


China eyes Black Sea port … China could play a key role in bankrolling Turkey’s planned waterway to the Black Sea, known as Canal Istanbul. Fehim Tastekin explains the apparent Chinese interest in the project this way: “It would offer them a geostrategic advantage at the meeting point of Europe and Asia at a time when the United States is trying to contain China.” But Beijing’s campaign against the Uyghurs, who share ethnic roots with the Turks, could complicate things for Erdogan if he goes ahead with the deal.

… and Kuwait’s Silk City. China is also looking to expand business in the Gulf. Kuwait is hoping Chinese investment, particularly in projects like the multibillion-dollar Silk City, can help diversify its oil-dependent economy. 


4. Egypt, Tunisia find common ground 


Leaving the Brothers behind? Tunisian President Kais Saied visited Cairo last week, ostensibly to offer support for Egypt’s position in its Nile dam negotiations with Ethiopia and discuss war-torn Libya’s political process. But Saied’s trip to meet with President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi — his first since taking office in 2019 — likely riled Tunisian Islamists, Ahmed Nadhif writes. That’s because Egypt’s strongman has waged a brutal crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood, a group from which Tunisia’s main Islamist political party, Ennahda, has drawn inspiration.


5. Egypt gears up for King Tut parade


King Tutankhamun’s funerary mask and golden sarcophagus will get the royal treatment when they are transferred from downtown Cairo to their new resting place in a museum near the Giza pyramids. Hagar Hosny reports that the Egyptian government, which earlier this month paraded 22 royal mummies through the streets of Cairo, is planning another televised spectacle to show off its treasured artifacts and give a boost to its coronavirus-stricken tourism industry.  


One cool thing: Meet Gaza’s stray dogs


Rasha Abou Jalal takes us inside what’s likely the Gaza Strip's only existing animal shelter. The new facility in the impoverished Palestinian enclave is home to about 200 stray dogs, a number of whom had been wounded by gunfire. Their food consists of leftovers provided by farms and poultry slaughterhouses, and the Gaza municipality has provided the shelter with transportation and cages.


ICYMI: Is Erdogan’s hold on power in doubt? 


Agence France-Presse journalist Raziye Akkoc talks to Amberin Zaman about Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's unchallenged grip on politics and the challenge of reporting on the tightly controlled decision-making process in Ankara. Listen to the full podcast here


What we’re reading: the IMF’s World Economic Outlook 


The end of the Middle East’s COVID-19 crisis may be in sight, but “the path to recovery is still long and divergent.” Slow vaccine rollouts, ongoing instability in conflict-ridden countries and tourism-dependent economies could make for a slower recovery in much of the region, says the IMF’s Middle East and Central Asia director, Jihad Azour

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