Ethiopia says it is dismayed at recent cross border incursions along its common border with Sudan and has called for Sudanese authorities to allow for diplomacy to lead the search for an amicable solution.
In a statement released on Sunday (May 31), the Ethiopian Foreign Ministry expressed “its deep sympathy and condolences to the families of the victims of both countries.”
The statement continued: “In the spirit of containing the situation on the ground and avoiding any further tension, the Ministry urges that the two countries should work together through existing military mechanisms to address and jointly investigate circumstances surrounding the incident.
“The Ministry strongly believes that there is no honorable reason for the two countries to descend into hostility and calls for the need to continue the close collaboration between neighboring local and regional administrations to ensure peace and security in the border area.
“We are of the view that such incidents are best addressed through diplomatic discussion based on the cordial and friendly relation and peaceful coexistence between the two countries.”
The statement came barely 24-hours after Sudan’s Foreign Ministry said it summoned Ethiopia’s diplomat to the country over a cross-border attack allegedly conducted by a militia backed by Ethiopia’s military.
Thursday’s attack in the eastern province of al-Qadarif killed at least one officer and one child, Sudan’s military said in a statement. Seven Sudanese troops, including an officer, and three civilians were also wounded, according to the statement.
Ethiopian farmers have for years planted crops in Sudan’s al-Fashqa border area but the government of former President Omar al-Bashir had tolerated the incursions.
Sudanese transitional authorities, who took over after the military’s ouster of al-Bashir last year amid months long protests, have recently engaged in talks with Ethiopia to withdraw Ethiopian farmers behind Sudanese borders.
Brig. Amer Mohammed al-Hassan, a spokesman for the Sudanese military, said in the statement that a militia backed by Ethiopia’s military attempted to take water from the Atbara River, setting off a heavy exchange of fire with Sudanese forces guarding the area. A militiaman was wounded, he said.
The militia retreated and then came back with a contingent from the Ethiopian military, and they attacked the Sudanese with machine guns, sniper rifles and RPGs, Hassan said. Al-Hassan said there were also cross-border attacks on May 26-27.
Sudan’s Foreign Ministry urged Ethiopia’s government to “take necessary measures to stop these attacks.” It said the violence came as both governments were preparing for a second round of talks in the Sudanese capital Khartoum to solve the border dispute.
Border tensions between the two countries have heated up recently with repeated attacks targeting Sudanese troops.
Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, head of Sudan’s ruling sovereign council, toured the border area last month after an attack. Since the visit, Khartoum has deployed more troops to its eastern border with Ethiopia to stop incursions.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed later sent his military chief of staff Lt. Gen. Adam Mohamed Mahmoud to Khartoum to meet with top Sudanese military and government officials in efforts to ease the tensions.