Sudan has denied claims by Ethiopia of occupying its territory, in the latest dispute over the contested al-Fashqa area.
Sudanese Foreign Ministry spokesman Mansour Boulad said on Wednesday the Sudanese army had redeployed its forces in the border area with Ethiopia; and did not go beyond the Sudanese territory.
In an exclusive interview with Al Jazeera Mubasher on Wednesday, Boulad said claims by Ethiopian Foreign Ministry spokesman Dina Mufti; of Sudan occupying Ethiopian lands “are not true”.
“Our choice so far is that we must deal with the situation according to the mechanisms of good neighbourliness; and cooperation between the two countries, but if Ethiopia does the opposite; we will have another position according to the circumstances,” he said.
The exact boundary of al-Fashqa – where the northwest of Ethiopia’s Amhara region meets Sudan’s breadbasket Gadarif state; – is rarely delineated on the ground.
According to the colonial-era treaties of 1902 and 1907, the international boundary runs to the east.
This means that the land belongs to Sudan – but Ethiopians had settled in the area and were cultivating there; and paying their taxes to Ethiopian authorities.
In 2008, the two governments settled on a compromise, which resulted in Ethiopia acknowledged the legal boundary; but Sudan allowing the Ethiopians to continue living there undisturbed.
Ethiopia committed to ‘peaceful resolution’
In late December, Sudanese soldiers reportedly moved up to 40km (25 miles) into Ethiopian-held territories; including the contested fertile agricultural region of al-Fashqa.
Ethiopia says Sudan took advantage of its forces being distracted by the Tigray conflict to occupy Ethiopian land and loot properties.
It then launched a diplomatic effort to get Sudanese forces out of the territories to promote a return to the normal mechanisms; of dialogue to resolve the century-long border dispute.
“Ethiopia is committed to a peaceful resolution of the border differences with Sudan,” Dina Mufti said in a press statement on Tuesday.
Any possibility of mediation would require Sudan to pull its forces to positions prior to late December; when Ethiopia first signalled a breach of its borders, he added.
“We have had mechanisms, technical and political committees,” he said; adding that the two countries need to get back to those resolution mechanisms through dialogue.
Asked how long Ethiopia would maintain a diplomatic stance while Sudan remains in the contested territories; Mufti said: “We will cross that river when we come to it.”
Sudanese military leaders have not shown any sign of heeding Ethiopia’s call, though; and reiterate they reclaimed their own territories.