Egypt reaches out to South Sudan before secession

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Egypt will be the second country to recognise South Sudan when it secedes on July 9, the Foreign Ministry said, mindful that the split could heighten instability in region and threaten Egypt’s access to Nile waters.

Egypt, Sudan’s northern neighbour, sought for years to defuse tension between Khartoum and southern Sudan that spilt over into a series of wars until 2005 when a peace deal gave southerners the option to form their own country.

Egypt had pressed for its ally Sudan to remain united, with one reason being the hope of preserving 1929 and 1955 Nile Basin treaties which allocated the most of the river’s waters to Egypt and Sudan, rather than other states who want a bigger share.

But when it became clear that southerners were determined to break away, Egypt adopted a more pragmatic approach and offered the south assistance in health, education and irrigation. It has already developed several electricity generating projects.
“Egypt will be the second state in the world to recognise Sudan Saturday,” the ministry said in a statement published in state al-Ahram newspaper Tuesday. Khartoum has already said it will recognise the new state.

Egypt’s consulate in Juba, capital of South Sudan, will become an embassy and a new ambassador will be named.
“Egypt’s foreign minister has previously issued a decision to strengthen diplomatic representation in Juba to befit the significance with which Egypt views its ties to brotherly South Sudan,” the statement said.

Egypt was looking forward to cooperation between North and South Sudan and was fully supportive of Khartoum and Juba in resolving outstanding disputes, the statement said.

South Sudan has not declared a position on sharing Nile waters but most analysts believe it is likely to side with its east African allies.

They have signed a new treaty aimed at ensuring what they say would be a more equitable distribution of the water, worrying Egypt which is already threatened by climate change and is struggling to grow food for its burgeoning population.

Egypt plans to send a delegation headed by the Foreign Minister Mohammed el-Orabi to participate in South Sudan’s independence ceremony, the statement said.

Egypt has said it will give the government of South Sudan a non-refundable grant of US$300 million for water and electricity projects. Egyptair, the country’s state-owned flag carrier, now flies twice a week to South Sudan.